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The Art of War 

Son Tzu 





The Ait of War 

Su ji Tzu 

The Oldest Military Treatise in the World 

Translated from the Chinese, 
with an Introduction and Critical Notes 

by 

Lionel Giles, MA 

Assistant 

Department of Oriental Printed Books 

And Manuscripts 

British Museum 



1910 



The Art of War by Sun Tzu 



To my brother 

Captain Valentine Giles, R.G. 

in the hope that 

a work 2400 years old 

may yet contain lessons 

worth consideration 

by the soldier of today 

this translation 

is affectionately dedicated. 




W 

D I D D J A Pu PP et Press Classic 

P R € $"S 



The Art of War by Sun Tzu 



Introduction ——————————— —————— —————— —————— —s 

Sun Wu and His Book 5 

The Text of Son Tzu 17 

The Commentators 20 

Appreciations of Son Tzu 24 

Apologies for War 25 

Bibliography 29 

Footnotes 31 

The Art of War— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — 35 

I Laying Plans 35 

II Waging War 41 

IIL Attack by Strategem 46 

IV, Tactical Disposiitons 53 

V, Energy 58 

VL Weak Points and Strong 65 

VIL Maneuvering 74 

VIII Variations in Tactics 85 

IX, The Army on the March 92 

X, Terrain 106 

XL The Nine Situations 115 

XIL The Attack by Fire 143 

XIIL The Use of Spies 150 



The Art of War by Sun Tzu 



^---^ ^—m;m'~ The Art of War was virtually unknown in 

^ UJ V XXU 3 Europe until 1782, when a French Jesuit 
priest living in China, Joseph Amiot, acquired a copy and translated it into 
French. It was not a good translation because, Dr. Giles wrote, "[l]t 
contains a great deal that Sun Tzu did not write, and very little indeed of 
what he did." 

Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A, published the first English translation in 
1905 in Tokyo. Dr. Giles said this translation was, "excessively bad..." and 

"It is not merely a question of downright blunders, from which none 
can hope to be wholly exempt. Omissions were frequent; hard passages 
were willfully distorted or slurred over. Such offenses are less pardonable. 
They would not be tolerated in any edition of a Latin or Greek classic, and 
a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted upon in translations 
from Chinese." 

In 1908, a new edition of Captain Calthrop's translation was 
published in London. It was an improvement — omissions filled up and 
numerous mistakes corrected — but new errors were created in the 
process. 

Dr. Giles wrote about his own translation: "It was not undertaken 
out of any inflated estimate of my own powers; but I could not help feeling 
that Sun Tzu deserved a better fate than had befallen him, and I knew 
that, at any rate, I could hardly fail to improve on the work of my 
predecessors." 

Dr. Giles was a leading Sinologist and an assistant in the 
Department of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts in the British 
Museum. 



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Introduction 



Sun Wu and His Book 

Ssu-ma Chfien gives the following biography of Sun Tzu: [1]: 

Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Chfi State. His Art of War brought 
him to the notice of Ho Lu, [2] King of Wu. Ho Lu said to him: "I have 
carefully perused your 13 chapters. May I submit your theory of managing 
soldiers to a slight test?" 

Sun Tzu replied: "You may." 

Ho Lu asked: "May the test be applied to women?" 

The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements were 
made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzu divided them into two 
companies, and placed one of the King's favorite concubines at the head 
of each. He then bade them all take spears in their hands, and addressed 
them thus: "I presume you know the difference between front and back, 
right hand and left hand?" 

The girls replied: Yes. 

Sun Tzu went on: "When I say "Eyes front," you must look straight 
ahead. When I say "Left turn," you must face towards your left hand. 
When I say "Right turn," you must face towards your right hand. When I 
say "About turn," you must face right round towards your back." 

Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thus 
explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the 
drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order "Right turn." But the 
girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu said: "If words of command are not 
clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the 
general is to blame." 

So he started drilling them again, and this time gave the order "Left 
turn," whereupon the girls once more burst into fits of laughter. Sun Tzu: 
"If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not 
thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, 
and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers." 

So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be 
beheaded. Now the king of Wu was watching the scene from the top of a 
raised pavilion; and when he saw that his favorite concubines were about 
to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the 



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following message: "We are now quite satisfied as to our general's ability 
to handle troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and 
drink will lose their savor. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded." 

Sun Tzu replied: "Having once received His Majesty's commission 
to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty 
which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept." 

Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and straightway 
installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this had 
been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once more; and the girls 
went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching 
ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and 
precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger 
to the King saying: "Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and 
disciplined, and ready for your majesty's inspection. They can be put to 
any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and 
water, and they will not disobey." 

But the King replied: "Let our general cease drilling and return to 
camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect the troops." 

Thereupon Sun Tzu said: "The King is only fond of words, and 
cannot translate them into deeds." 

After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how to 
handle an army, and finally appointed him general. In the west, he 
defeated the Chfu State and forced his way into Ying, the capital; to the 
north he put fear into the States of Chf i and Chin, and spread his fame 
abroad amongst the feudal princes. And Sun Tzu shared in the might of 
the King. 

About Sun Tzu himself this is all that Ssu-ma Chf ien has to tell us 
in this chapter. But he proceeds to give a biography of his descendant, 
Sun Pin, born about a hundred years after his famous ancestor's death, 
and also the outstanding military genius of his time. The historian speaks 
of him too as Sun Tzu, and in his preface we read: "Sun Tzu had his feet 
cut off and yet continued to discuss the art of war." [3] It seems likely, 
then, that "Pin" was a nickname bestowed on him after his mutilation, 
unless the story was invented in order to account for the name. The 
crowning incident of his career, the crushing defeat of his treacherous rival 
P'ang Chuan, will be found briefly related in Chapter V. ss. 19, note. 

To return to the elder Sun Tzu. He is mentioned in two other 
passages of the SHIH CHI: 

In the third year of his reign [512 B.C.] Ho Lu, king of 
Wu, took the field with Tzu-hsu [i.e. Wu Yuan] and Po P'ei, 
and attacked Chfu. He captured the town of Shu and slew 
the two prince's sons who had formerly been generals of 



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Wu. He was then meditating a descent on Ying [the capital]; 
but the general Sun Wu said: "The army is exhausted. It is 
not yet possible. We must wait"[After further successful 
fighting,] "in the ninth year [506 B.C.], King Ho Lu addressed 
Wu Tzu-hsu and Sun Wu, saying: "Formerly, you declared 
that it was not yet possible for us to enter Ying. Is the time 
ripe now?" The two men replied: "Chf u's general Tzu- 
chfang, [4] is grasping and covetous, and the princes of 
Tang and Ts'ai both have a grudge against him. If Your 
Majesty has resolved to make a grand attack, you must win 
over Tang and Ts'ai, and then you may succeed." Ho Lu 
followed this advice, [beat Chfu in five pitched battles and 
marched into Ying.] [5] 

This is the latest date at which anything is recorded of Sun Wu. He 
does not appear to have survived his patron, who died from the effects of 
a wound in 496. 

In another chapter there occurs this passage: [6] 

From this time onward, a number of famous soldiers 
arose, one after the other: Kao-fan, [7] who was employed 
by the Chin State; Wang-tzu, [8] in the service of Chfi; and 
Sun Wu, in the service of Wu. These men developed and 
threw light upon the principles of war. 

It is obvious enough that Ssu-ma Chfien at least had no doubt 
about the reality of Sun Wu as an historical personage; and with one 
exception, to be noticed presently, he is by far the most important 
authority on the period in question. It will not be necessary, therefore, to 
say much of such a work as the WU YUEH CH^UN CH^IU, which is 
supposed to have been written by Chao Yeh of the 1st century A.D. The 
attribution is somewhat doubtful; but even if it were otherwise, his account 
would be of little value, based as it is on the SHIH CHI and expanded with 
romantic details. The story of Sun Tzu will be found, for what it is worth, in 
chapter 2. The only new points in it worth noting are: (1) Sun Tzu was first 
recommended to Ho Lu by Wu Tzu-hsu. (2) He is called a native of Wu. 
(3) He had previously lived a retired life, and his contemporaries were 
unaware of his ability. 

The following passage occurs in the Huai-nan Tzu: "When 
sovereign and ministers show perversity of mind, it is impossible even for 
a Sun Tzu to encounter the foe." Assuming that this work is genuine (and 
hitherto no doubt has been cast upon it), we have here the earliest direct 
reference for Sun Tzu, for Huai-nan Tzu died in 122 B.C., many years 
before the SHIH CHI was given to the world. 



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Liu Hsiang (80-9 B.C.) says: "The reason why Sun Tzu at the head 
of 30,000 men beat Chfu with 200,000 is that the latter were 
undisciplined." 

Teng Ming-shih informs us that the surname "Sun" was bestowed 
on Sun Wu's grandfather by Duke Ching of Chfi [547-490 B.C.]. Sun Wu's 
father Sun P'ing, rose to be a Minister of State in Chfi, and Sun Wu 
himself, whose style was Chf ang-chf ing, fled to Wu on account of the 
rebellion which was being fomented by the kindred of "Tien Pao. He had 
three sons, of whom the second, named Ming, was the father of Sun Pin. 
According to this account then, Pin was the grandson of Wu, which, 
considering that Sun Pin's victory over Wei was gained in 341 B.C., may 
be dismissed as chronological impossible. Whence these data were 
obtained by Teng Ming-shih I do not know, but of course no reliance 
whatever can be placed in them. 

An interesting document which has survived from the close of the 
Han period is the short preface written by the Great Ts'ao Ts'ao, or Wei 
Wu Ti, for his edition of Sun Tzu. I shall give it in full: 

I have heard that the ancients used bows and arrows to 
their advantage. [10] The SHU CHU mentions "the army" 
among the "eight objects of government." The I CHING says: 
"'army' indicates firmness and justice; the experienced 
leader will have good fortune." The SHIH CHING says: "The 
King rose majestic in his wrath, and he marshaled his 
troops." The Yellow Emperor, Tang the Completer and Wu 
Wang all used spears and battle-axes in order to succor 
their generation. The SSU-MA FA says: "If one man slay 
another of set purpose, he himself may rightfully be slain." 
He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be 
exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures 
shall perish. Instances of this are Fu Chf ai [11] on the one 
hand and Yen Wang on the other. [12] In military matters, the 
Sage's rule is normally to keep the peace, and to move his 
forces only when occasion requires. He will not use armed 
force unless driven to it by necessity. 

Many books have I read on the subject of war and 
fighting; but the work composed by Sun Wu is the 
profoundest of them all. [Sun Tzu was a native of the Chfi 
state, his personal name was Wu. He wrote the ART OF 
WAR in 13 chapters for Ho Lu, King of Wu. Its principles 
were tested on women, and he was subsequently made a 
general. He led an army westwards, crushed the Chfu state 
and entered Ying the capital. In the north, he kept Chfi and 



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Chin in awe. A hundred years and more after his time, Sun 
Pin lived. He was a descendant of Wu.] [13] In his treatment 
of deliberation and planning, the importance of rapidity in 
taking the field, [14] clearness of conception, and depth of 
design, Sun Tzu stands beyond the reach of carping 
criticism. My contemporaries, however, have failed to grasp 
the full meaning of his instructions, and while putting into 
practice the smaller details in which his work abounds, they 
have overlooked its essential purport. That is the motive 
which has led me to outline a rough explanation of the 
whole. 

One thing to be noticed in the above is the explicit statement that 
the 13 chapters were specially composed for King Ho Lu. This is 
supported by the internal evidence of I. ss. 15, in which it seems clear that 
some ruler is addressed. 

In the bibliographic section of the HAN SHU, there is an entry 
which has given rise to much discussion: "The works of Sun Tzu of Wu in 
82 P X IEN (or chapters), with diagrams in 9 CHUAN." It is evident that this 
cannot be merely the 13 chapters known to Ssu-ma Chfien, or those we 
possess today. Chang Shou-chieh refers to an edition of Sun Tzu's ART 
OF WAR of which the "13 chapters" formed the first CHUAN, adding that 
there were two other CHUAN besides. This has brought forth a theory, that 
the bulk of these 82 chapters consisted of other writings of Sun Tzu — we 
should call them apocryphal — similar to the WEN TA, of which a 
specimen dealing with the Nine Situations [15] is preserved in the T'UNG 
TIEN, and another in Ho Shin's commentary. 

It is suggested that before his interview with Ho Lu, Sun Tzu had 
only written the 13 chapters, but afterwards composed a sort of exegesis 
in the form of question and answer between himself and the King. Pi I- 
hsun, the author of the SUN TZU HSU LU, backs this up with a quotation 
from the WU YUEH CH^UN CH^IU: "The King of Wu summoned Sun Tzu, 
and asked him questions about the art of war. Each time he set forth a 
chapter of his work, the King could not find words enough to praise him." 
As he points out, if the whole work was expounded on the same scale as 
in the above-mentioned fragments, the total number of chapters could not 
fail to be considerable. Then the numerous other treatises attributed to 
Sun Tzu might be included. The fact that the HAN CHIH mentions no work 
of Sun Tzu except the 82 P'lEN, whereas the Sui and Tang 
bibliographies give the titles of others in addition to the "13 chapters," is 
good proof, Pi l-hsun thinks, that all of these were contained in the 82 
P'lEN. Without pinning our faith to the accuracy of details supplied by the 
WU YUEH CITUN CH^IU, or admitting the genuineness of any of the 



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treatises cited by Pi l-hsun, we may see in this theory a probable solution 
of the mystery. Between Ssu-ma Chfien and Pan Ku there was plenty of 
time for a luxuriant crop of forgeries to have grown up under the magic 
name of Sun Tzu, and the 82 P'lEN may very well represent a collected 
edition of these lumped together with the original work. It is also possible, 
though less likely, that some of them existed in the time of the earlier 
historian and were purposely ignored by him. [16] 

Tu Mu's conjecture seems to be based on a passage which states: 
"Wei Wu Ti strung together Sun Wu's Art of War," which in turn may have 
resulted from a misunderstanding of the final words of Ts'ao King's 
preface. This, as Sun Hsing-yen points out, is only a modest way of saying 
that he made an explanatory paraphrase, or in other words, wrote a 
commentary on it. On the whole, this theory has met with very little 
acceptance. Thus, the SSU ICU CITUAN SHU says: "The mention of the 
13 chapters in the SHIH CHI shows that they were in existence before the 
HAN CHIH, and that latter accretions are not to be considered part of the 
original work. Tu Mu's assertion can certainly not be taken as proof." 

There is every reason to suppose, then, that the 13 chapters 
existed in the time of Ssu-ma Chfien practically as we have them now. 
That the work was then well known he tells us in so many words. "Sun 
Tzu's 13 Chapters and Wu Chf i's Art of War are the two books that people 
commonly refer to on the subject of military matters. Both of them are 
widely distributed, so I will not discuss them here." But as we go further 
back, serious difficulties begin to arise. The salient fact which has to be 
faced is that the TSO CHUAN, the greatest contemporary record, makes 
no mention whatsoever of Sun Wu, either as a general or as a writer. It is 
natural, in view of this awkward circumstance, that many scholars should 
not only cast doubt on the story of Sun Wu as given in the SHIH CHI, but 
even show themselves frankly skeptical as to the existence of the man at 
all. The most powerful presentment of this side of the case is to be found 
in the following disposition by Yeh Shui-hsin: [17] 

It is stated in Ssu-ma Chf ien's history that Sun Wu was 
a native of the Chf i State, and employed by Wu; and that in 
the reign of Ho Lu he crushed Chf u, entered Ying, and was a 
great general. But in Tso's Commentary no Sun Wu appears 
at all. It is true that Tso's Commentary need not contain 
absolutely everything that other histories contain. But Tso 
has not omitted to mention vulgar plebeians and hireling 
ruffians such as Ying ICao-shu, [18] Ts'ao Kuei, [19], Chu 
Chih-wu and Chuan She-chu [20]. In the case of Sun Wu, 
whose fame and achievements were so brilliant, the 
omission is much more glaring. Again, details are given, in 



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their due order, about his contemporaries Wu Yuan and the 
Minister P x ei. [21] Is it credible that Sun Wu alone should 
have been passed over? 

In point of literary style, Sun Tzu's work belongs to the same school 
as KUAN TZU, [22] LIU FAO, [23] and the YUEH YU [24] and may have 
been the production of some private scholar living towards the end of the 
"Spring and Autumn" or the beginning of the "Warring States" period. [25] 
The story that his precepts were actually applied by the Wu State, is 
merely the outcome of big talk on the part of his followers. 

From the flourishing period of the Chou dynasty [26] down to the 
time of the "Spring and Autumn," all military commanders were statesmen 
as well, and the class of professional generals, for conducting external 
campaigns, did not then exist. It was not until the period of the "Six 
States" [27] that this custom changed. Now although Wu was an 
uncivilized State, it is conceivable that Tso should have left unrecorded 
the fact that Sun Wu was a great general and yet held no civil office? 
What we are told, therefore, about Jang-chu [28] and Sun Wu, is not 
authentic matter, but the reckless fabrication of theorizing pundits. The 
story of Ho Lu's experiment on the women, in particular, is utterly 
preposterous and incredible. 

Yeh Shui-hsin represents Ssu-ma Chf ien as having said that Sun 
Wu crushed Chf u and entered Ying. This is not quite correct. No doubt the 
impression left on the reader's mind is that he at least shared in these 
exploits. The fact may or may not be significant; but it is nowhere explicitly 
stated in the SHIH CHI either that Sun Tzu was general on the occasion of 
the taking of Ying, or that he even went there at all. Moreover, as we know 
that Wu Yuan and Po P'ei both took part in the expedition, and also that 
its success was largely due to the dash and enterprise of Fu Kai, Ho Lu's 
younger brother, it is not easy to see how yet another general could have 
played a very prominent part in the same campaign. 

Chfen Chen-sun of the Sung dynasty has the note: 

Military writers look upon Sun Wu as the father of their 
art. But the fact that he does not appear in the TSO CHUAN, 
although he is said to have served under Ho Lu King of Wu, 
makes it uncertain what period he really belonged to. 

He also says: "The works of Sun Wu and Wu Chf i may be of 
genuine antiquity." 

It is noticeable that both Yeh Shui-hsin and Chfen Chen-sun, while 
rejecting the personality of Sun Wu as he figures in Ssu-ma Chf ien's 
history, are inclined to accept the date traditionally assigned to the work 
which passes under his name. The author of the HSU LU fails to 
appreciate this distinction, and consequently his bitter attack on Chfen 



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Chen-sun really misses its mark. He makes one of two points, however, 
which certainly tell in favor of the high antiquity of our "13 chapters." "Sun 
Tzu," he says, "must have lived in the age of Ching Wang [519-476], 
because he is frequently plagiarized in subsequent works of the Chou, 
Chun and Han dynasties." The two most shameless offenders in this 
respect are Wu Chfi and Huai-nan Tzu, both of them important historical 
personages in their day. The former lived only a century after the alleged 
date of Sun Tzu, and his death is known to have taken place in 381 B.C. It 
was to him, according to Liu Hsiang, that Tseng Shen delivered the TSO 
CHUAN, which had been entrusted to him by its author. [29] Now the fact 
that quotations from the ART OF WAR, acknowledged or otherwise, are to 
be found in so many authors of different epochs, establishes a very strong 
anterior to them all, — in other words, that Sun Tzu's treatise was already 
in existence towards the end of the 5th century B.C. Further proof of Sun 
Tzu's antiquity is furnished by the archaic or wholly obsolete meanings 
attaching to a number of the words he uses. A list of these, which might 
perhaps be extended, is given in the HSU LU; and though some of the 
interpretations are doubtful, the main argument is hardly affected thereby. 
Again, it must not be forgotten that Yeh Shui-hsin, a scholar and critic of 
the first rank, deliberately pronounces the style of the 13 chapters to 
belong to the early part of the fifth century. Seeing that he is actually 
engaged in an attempt to disprove the existence of Sun Wu himself, we 
may be sure that he would not have hesitated to assign the work to a later 
date had he not honestly believed the contrary. And it is precisely on such 
a point that the judgment of an educated Chinaman will carry most weight. 
Other internal evidence is not far to seek. Thus in XIII. ss. 1 , there is an 
unmistakable allusion to the ancient system of land-tenure which had 
already passed away by the time of Mencius, who was anxious to see it 
revived in a modified form. [30] The only warfare Sun Tzu knows is that 
carried on between the various feudal princes, in which armored chariots 
play a large part. Their use seems to have entirely died out before the end 
of the Chou dynasty. He speaks as a man of Wu, a state which ceased to 
exist as early as 473 B.C. On this I shall touch presently. 

But once refer the work to the 5th century or earlier, and the 
chances of its being other than a bona fide production are sensibly 
diminished. The great age of forgeries did not come until long after. That it 
should have been forged in the period immediately following 473 is 
particularly unlikely, for no one, as a rule, hastens to identify himself with 
a lost cause. As for Yeh Shui-hsin's theory, that the author was a literary 
recluse, that seems to me quite untenable. If one thing is more apparent 
than another after reading the maxims of Sun Tzu, it is that their essence 
has been distilled from a large store of personal observation and 
experience. They reflect the mind not only of a born strategist, gifted with 

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a rare faculty of generalization, but also of a practical soldier closely 
acquainted with the military conditions of his time. To say nothing of the 
fact that these sayings have been accepted and endorsed by all the 
greatest captains of Chinese history, they offer a combination of freshness 
and sincerity, acuteness and common sense, which quite excludes the 
idea that they were artificially concocted in the study. If we admit, then, 
that the 13 chapters were the genuine production of a military man living 
towards the end of the "ChTIJN CITIU" period, are we not bound, in spite 
of the silence of the TSO CHUAN, to accept Ssu-ma Chfien's account in 
its entirety? In view of his high repute as a sober historian, must we not 
hesitate to assume that the records he drew upon for Sun Wu's biography 
were false and untrustworthy? The answer, I fear, must be in the negative. 
There is still one grave, if not fatal, objection to the chronology involved in 
the story as told in the SHIH CHI, which, so far as I am aware, nobody has 
yet pointed out. There are two passages in Sun Tzu in which he alludes to 
contemporary affairs. The first in in VI. ss. 21 : 

Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh 
exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them 
nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be 
achieved. 

The other is in XI. ss. 30: 

Asked if an army can be made to imitate the SHUAI- 
JAN, I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men 
of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the 
same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each 
other's assistance just as the left hand helps the right. 

These two paragraphs are extremely valuable as evidence of the 
date of composition. They assign the work to the period of the struggle 
between Wu and Yueh. So much has been observed by Pi l-hsun. But 
what has hitherto escaped notice is that they also seriously impair the 
credibility of Ssu-ma Chfien's narrative. As we have seen above, the first 
positive date given in connection with Sun Wu is 512 B.C. He is then 
spoken of as a general, acting as confidential adviser to Ho Lu, so that his 
alleged introduction to that monarch had already taken place, and of 
course the 13 chapters must have been written earlier still. But at that 
time, and for several years after, down to the capture of Ying in 506, Chfu 
and not Yueh, was the great hereditary enemy of Wu. The two states, 
Chfu and Wu, had been constantly at war for over half a century, [31] 
whereas the first war between Wu and Yueh was waged only in 510, [32] 
and even then was no more than a short interlude sandwiched in the midst 
of the fierce struggle with Chfu. Now Chfu is not mentioned in the 13 
chapters at all. The natural inference is that they were written at a time 

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when Yuen had become the prime antagonist of Wu, that is, after Chfu 
had suffered the great humiliation of 506. At this point, a table of dates 
may be found useful. 

BC 

514 

v Accession of Ho Lu. 
512 

v Ho Lu attacks Chf u, but is dissuaded from 
entering Yingm the capital. SHI CHI mentions 
Sun Wu as general. 
511 

v Another attack on Chfu. 
510 

v Wu makes a successful attack on Yueh. This is 
the first war between the two states. 
509 

v Chfu invades Wu, but is signally defeated at Yu- 
chang. 
506 

v Ho Lu attacks Chfu with the aid of "Tang and 

Ts'ai. 
v Decisive battle of Po-chu, and capture of Ying. 
Last mention of Sun Wu in SHIH CHI. 
505 

v Yueh makes a raid on Wu in the absence of its 
army. Wu is beaten by Chf in and evacuates Ying. 
504 

v Ho Lu sends Fu Chf ai to attack Chfu. 
497 

v Kou Chien becomes King of Yueh. 
496 

v Wu attacks Yueh, but is defeated by Kou Chien 

at Tsui-li. 
v Ho Lu is killed. 
494 

v Fu Chf ai defeats Kou Chien in the great battle of 
Fu-chaio, and enters the capital of Yueh. 
485 or 484 
v Kou Chien renders homage to Wu. Death of Wu 
Tzu-hsu. 
482 



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v Kou Chien invades Wu in the absence of Fu 
Chfai. 
478 to 476 

v Further attacks by Yuen on Wu. 
475 

v Kou Chien lays siege to the capital of Wu. 
473 

v Final defeat and extinction of Wu. 

The sentence quoted above from VI. ss. 21 hardly strikes me as 
one that could have been written in the full flush of victory. It seems rather 
to imply that, for the moment at least, the tide had turned against Wu, and 
that she was getting the worst of the struggle. Hence we may conclude 
that our treatise was not in existence in 505, before which date Yueh does 
not appear to have scored any notable success against Wu. Ho Lu died in 
496, so that if the book was written for him, it must have been during the 
period 505-496, when there was a lull in the hostilities, Wu having 
presumably exhausted by its supreme effort against Chfu. On the other 
hand, if we choose to disregard the tradition connecting Sun Wu's name 
with Ho Lu, it might equally well have seen the light between 496 and 494, 
or possibly in the period 482-473, when Yueh was once again becoming a 
very serious menace. [33] We may feel fairly certain that the author, 
whoever he may have been, was not a man of any great eminence in his 
own day. On this point the negative testimony of the TSO CHUAN far 
outweighs any shred of authority still attaching to the SHIH CHI, if once its 
other facts are discredited. Sun Hsing-yen, however, makes a feeble 
attempt to explain the omission of his name from the great commentary. It 
was Wu Tzu-hsu, he says, who got all the credit of Sun Wu's exploits, 
because the latter (being an alien) was not rewarded with an office in the 
State. 

How then did the Sun Tzu legend originate? It may be that the 
growing celebrity of the book imparted by degrees a kind of factitious 
renown to its author. It was felt to be only right and proper that one so well 
versed in the science of war should have solid achievements to his credit 
as well. Now the capture of Ying was undoubtedly the greatest feat of 
arms in Ho Lu's reign; it made a deep and lasting impression on all the 
surrounding states, and raised Wu to the short-lived zenith of her power. 
Hence, what more natural, as time went on, than that the acknowledged 
master of strategy, Sun Wu, should be popularly identified with that 
campaign, at first perhaps only in the sense that his brain conceived and 
planned it; afterwards, that it was actually carried out by him in 
conjunction with Wu Yuan, [34] Po P'ei and Fu Kai? 



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It is obvious that any attempt to reconstruct even the outline of Sun 
Tzu's life must be based almost wholly on conjecture. With this necessary 
proviso, I should say that he probably entered the service of Wu about the 
time of Ho Lu's accession, and gathered experience, though only in the 
capacity of a subordinate officer, during the intense military activity which 
marked the first half of the prince's reign. [35] If he rose to be a general at 
all, he certainly was never on an equal footing with the three above 
mentioned. He was doubtless present at the investment and occupation of 
Ying, and witnessed Wu's sudden collapse in the following year. Yueh's 
attack at this critical juncture, when her rival was embarrassed on every 
side, seems to have convinced him that this upstart kingdom was the great 
enemy against whom every effort would henceforth have to be directed. 
Sun Wu was thus a well-seasoned warrior when he sat down to write his 
famous book, which according to my reckoning must have appeared 
towards the end, rather than the beginning of Ho Lu's reign. The story of 
the women may possibly have grown out of some real incident occurring 
about the same time. As we hear no more of Sun Wu after this from any 
source, he is hardly likely to have survived his patron or to have taken part 
in the death-struggle with Yueh, which began with the disaster at Tsui-li. 

If these inferences are approximately correct, there is a certain 
irony in the fate which decreed that China's most illustrious man of peace 
should be contemporary with her greatest writer on war. 



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The Text of Stm Tzu 

I have found it difficult to glean much about the history of Sun Tzu's 
text. The quotations that occur in early authors go to show that the "13 
chapters" of which Ssu-ma Chfien speaks were essentially the same as 
those now extant. We have his word for it that they were widely circulated 
in his day, and can only regret that he refrained from discussing them on 
that account. Sun Hsing-yen says in his preface: 

During the Chun and Han dynasties Sun Tzu's Art of 
War was in general use amongst military commanders, but 
they seem to have treated it as a work of mysterious import, 
and were unwilling to expound it for the benefit of posterity. 
Thus it came about that Wei Wu was the first to write a 
commentary on it. 

As we have already seen, there is no reasonable ground to 
suppose that Ts'ao Kung tampered with the text. But the text itself is often 
so obscure, and the number of editions which appeared from that time 
onward so great, especially during the Tang and Sung dynasties, that it 
would be surprising if numerous corruptions had not managed to creep in. 
Towards the middle of the Sung period, by which time all the chief 
commentaries on Sun Tzu were in existence, a certain Chi Tien-pao 
published a work in 15 CHUAN entitled "Sun Tzu with the collected 
commentaries of ten writers." There was another text, with variant 
readings put forward by Chu Fu of Ta-hsing, which also had supporters 
among the scholars of that period; but in the Ming editions, Sun Hsing-yen 
tells us, these readings were for some reason or other no longer put into 
circulation. Thus, until the end of the 18th century, the text in sole 
possession of the field was one derived from Chi Tien-pao's edition, 
although no actual copy of that important work was known to have 
survived. That, therefore, is the text of Sun Tzu which appears in the War 
section of the great Imperial encyclopedia printed in 1726, the KU CHIN 
TU SHU CHI CH'ENG. Another copy at my disposal of what is practically 
the same text, with slight variations, is that contained in the "Eleven 
philosophers of the Chou and Chun dynasties" [1758]. And the Chinese 
printed in Capt. Calthrop's first edition is evidently a similar version which 
has filtered through Japanese channels. So things remained until Sun 
Hsing-yen [1752-1818], a distinguished antiquarian and classical scholar, 
who claimed to be an actual descendant of Sun Wu, [36] accidentally 
discovered a copy of Chi Tien-pao's long-lost work, when on a visit to the 
library of the Hua-yin temple. [37] Appended to it was the I SHUO of 
Cheng Yu-Hsien, mentioned in the TUNG CHIH, and also believed to 
have perished. This is what Sun Hsing-yen designates as the "original 



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edition (or text)" — a rather misleading name, for it cannot by any means 
claim to set before us the text of Sun Tzu in its pristine purity. Chi "Tien- 
pao was a careless compiler, and appears to have been content to 
reproduce the somewhat debased version current in his day, without 
troubling to collate it with the earliest editions then available. Fortunately, 
two versions of Sun Tzu, even older than the newly discovered work, were 
still extant, one buried in the "TUNG TIEN, Tu Yu's great treatise on the 
Constitution, the other similarly enshrined in the TA\ P X ING YU LAN 
encyclopedia. In both the complete text is to be found, though split up into 
fragments, intermixed with other matter, and scattered piecemeal over a 
number of different sections. Considering that the YU LAN takes us back 
to the year 983, and the TUNG TIEN about 200 years further still, to the 
middle of the Tang dynasty, the value of these early transcripts of Sun 
Tzu can hardly be overestimated. Yet the idea of utilizing them does not 
seem to have occurred to anyone until Sun Hsing-yen, acting under 
Government instructions, undertook a thorough recension of the text. This 
is his own account: 

Because of the numerous mistakes in the text of Sun 
Tzu which his editors had handed down, the Government 
ordered that the ancient edition [of Chi T x ien-pao] should be 
used, and that the text should be revised and corrected 
throughout. It happened thatWu Nien-hu, the Governor Pi 
Kua, and Hsi, a graduate of the second degree, had all 
devoted themselves to this study, probably surpassing me 
therein. Accordingly, I have had the whole work cut on 
blocks as a textbook for military men. 

The three individuals here referred to had evidently been occupied 
on the text of Sun Tzu prior to Sun Hsing-yen's commission, but we are 
left in doubt as to the work they really accomplished. At any rate, the new 
edition, when ultimately produced, appeared in the names of Sun Hsing- 
yen and only one co-editor Wu Jen-shi. They took the "original edition" as 
their basis, and by careful comparison with older versions, as well as the 
extant commentaries and other sources of information such as the I 
SHUO, succeeded in restoring a very large number of doubtful passages, 
and turned out, on the whole, what must be accepted as the closes 
approximation we are ever likely to get to Sun Tzu's original work. This is 
what will hereafter be denominated the "standard text." 

The copy which I have used belongs to a reissue dated 1877. it is 
in 6 PEN, forming part of a well-printed set of 23 early philosophical works 
in 83 PEN. [38] It opens with a preface by Sun Hsing-yen (largely quoted 
in this introduction), vindicating the traditional view of Sun Tzu's life and 
performances, and summing up in remarkably concise fashion the 



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evidence in its favor. This is followed by Ts'ao Kung's preface to his 
edition, and the biography of Sun Tzu from the SHIH CHI, both translated 
above. Then come, firstly, Cheng Yu-hsien's I SHUO, [39] with author's 
preface, and next, a short miscellany of historical and bibliographical 
information entitled SUN TZU HSU LU, compiled by Pi l-hsun. As regards 
the body of the work, each separate sentence is followed by a note on the 
text, if required, and then by the various commentaries appertaining to it, 
arranged in chronological order. These we shall now proceed to discuss 
briefly, one by one. 



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The Coitiineiitato js 

Sun Tzu can boast an exceptionally long distinguished roll of 
commentators, which would do honor to any classic. Ou-yang Hsiu 
remarks on this fact, though he wrote before the tale was complete, and 
rather ingeniously explains it by saying that the artifices of war, being 
inexhaustible, must therefore be susceptible of treatment in a great variety 
of ways. 

1 . TS'AO TS'AO or Ts'ao Kung, afterwards known as Wei Wu Ti 
[A.D. 155-220]. There is hardly any room for doubt that the earliest 
commentary on Sun Tzu actually came from the pen of this extraordinary 
man, whose biography in the SAN KUO CHIH reads like a romance. One 
of the greatest military geniuses that the world has seen, and Napoleonic 
in the scale of his operations, he was especially famed for the marvelous 
rapidity of his marches, which has found expression in the line "Talk of 
Ts'ao Ts'ao, and Ts'ao Ts'ao will appear." Ou-yang Hsiu says of him that 
he was a great captain who "measured his strength against Tung Cho, Lu 
Pu and the two Yuan, father and son, and vanquished them all; whereupon 
he divided the Empire of Han with Wu and Shu, and made himself king. It 
is recorded that whenever a council of war was held by Wei on the eve of 
a far-reaching campaign, he had all his calculations ready; those generals 
who made use of them did not lose one battle in ten; those who ran 
counter to them in any particular saw their armies incontinently beaten 
and put to flight." Ts'ao Kung's notes on Sun Tzu, models of austere 
brevity, are so thoroughly characteristic of the stern commander known to 
history, that it is hard indeed to conceive of them as the work of a mere 
LITTERATEUR. Sometimes, indeed, owing to extreme compression, they 
are scarcely intelligible and stand no less in need of a commentary than 
the text itself. [40] 

2. MENG SHIH. The commentary which has come down to us 
under this name is comparatively meager, and nothing about the author is 
known. Even his personal name has not been recorded. Chi Tien-pao's 
edition places him after Chia Lin, and Chfao Kung-wu also assigns him to 
the Tang dynasty, [41] but this is a mistake. In Sun Hsing-yen's preface, 
he appears as Meng Shih of the Liang dynasty [502-557]. Others would 
identify him with Meng ICang of the 3rd century. He is named in one work 
as the last of the "Five Commentators," the others being Wei Wu Ti, Tu 
Mu, Chf en Hao and Chia Lin. 

3. LI CH'UAN of the 8th century was a well-known writer on military 
tactics. One of his works has been in constant use down to the present 
day. The TUNG CHIH mentions "Lives of famous generals from the Chou 
to the Tang dynasty" as written by him. [42] According to Chfao Kung-wu 
and the TIEN-I-KO catalogue, he followed a variant of the text of Sun Tzu 

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which differs considerably from those now extant. His notes are mostly 
short and to the point, and he frequently illustrates his remarks by 
anecdotes from Chinese history. 

4. TU YU (died 812) did not publish a separate commentary on Sun 
Tzu, his notes being taken from the "TUNG TIEN, the encyclopedic 
treatise on the Constitution which was his life-work. They are largely 
repetitions of Ts'ao Kung and Meng Shih, besides which it is believed that 
he drew on the ancient commentaries of Wang Ling and others. Owing to 
the peculiar arrangement of TUNG TIEN, he has to explain each passage 
on its merits, apart from the context, and sometimes his own explanation 
does not agree with that of Ts'ao Kung, whom he always quotes first. 
Though not strictly to be reckoned as one of the "Ten Commentators," he 
was added to their number by Chi T x ien-pao, being wrongly placed after 
his grandson Tu Mu 

5. TU MU (803-852) is perhaps the best known as a poet — a 
bright star even in the glorious galaxy of the Tang period. We learn from 
Chfao Kung-wu that although he had no practical experience of war, he 
was extremely fond of discussing the subject, and was moreover well read 
in the military history of the CITUN d-TIU and CHAN KUO eras. His 
notes, therefore, are well worth attention. They are very copious, and 
replete with historical parallels. The gist of Sun Tzu's work is thus 
summarized by him: "Practice benevolence and justice, but on the other 
hand make full use of artifice and measures of expediency." He further 
declared that all the military triumphs and disasters of the thousand years 
which had elapsed since Sun Tzu's death would, upon examination, be 
found to uphold and corroborate, in every particular, the maxims contained 
in his book. Tu Mu's somewhat spiteful charge against Ts'ao Kung has 
already been considered elsewhere. 

6. CH'EN HAO appears to have been a contemporary of Tu Mu. 
Chfao Kung-wu says that he was impelled to write a new commentary on 
Sun Tzu because Ts'ao Kung's on the one hand was too obscure and 
subtle, and that of Tu Mu on the other too long-winded and diffuse. Ou- 
yang Hsiu, writing in the middle of the 11th century, calls Ts'ao Kung, Tu 
Mu and Chfen Hao the three chief commentators on Sun Tzu, and 
observes that Chfen Hao is continually attacking Tu Mu's shortcomings. 
His commentary, though not lacking in merit, must rank below those of his 
predecessors. 

7. CHIA LIN is known to have lived under the T'ang dynasty, for his 
commentary on Sun Tzu is mentioned in the T'ang Shu and was 
afterwards republished by Chi Hsieh of the same dynasty together with 
those of Meng Shih and Tu Yu. It is of somewhat scanty texture, and in 
point of quality, too, perhaps the least valuable of the eleven. 



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8. MEI YAO-ChTEN (1002-1060), commonly known by his "style" as 
Mei Sheng-yu, was, like Tu Mu, a poet of distinction. His commentary was 
published with a laudatory preface by the great Ou-yang Hsiu, from which 
we may cull the following: 

Later scholars have misread Sun Tzu, distorting his 
words and trying to make them square with their own one- 
sided views. Thus, though commentators have not been 
lacking, only a few have proved equal to the task. My friend 
Sheng-yu has not fallen into this mistake. In attempting to 
provide a critical commentary for Sun Tzu's work, he does 
not lose sight of the fact that these sayings were intended 
for states engaged in internecine warfare; that the author is 
not concerned with the military conditions prevailing under 
the sovereigns of the three ancient dynasties, [43] nor with 
the nine punitive measures prescribed to the Minister of War. 
[44] Again, Sun Wu loved brevity of diction, but his meaning 
is always deep. Whether the subject be marching an army, 
or handling soldiers, or estimating the enemy, or controlling 
the forces of victory, it is always systematically treated; the 
sayings are bound together in strict logical sequence, though 
this has been obscured by commentators who have probably 
failed to grasp their meaning. In his own commentary, Mei 
Sheng-yu has brushed aside all the obstinate prejudices of 
these critics, and has tried to bring out the true meaning of 
Sun Tzu himself. In this way, the clouds of confusion have 
been dispersed and the sayings made clear. I am convinced 
that the present work deserves to be handed down side by 
side with the three great commentaries; and for a great deal 
that they find in the sayings, coming generations will have 
constant reason to thank my friend Sheng-yu. 

Making some allowance for the exuberance of friendship, I am 
inclined to endorse this favorable judgment, and would certainly place him 
above Chfen Hao in order of merit. 

9. WANG HSI, also of the Sung dynasty, is decidedly original in 
some of his interpretations, but much less judicious than Mei Yao-chfen, 
and on the whole not a very trustworthy guide. He is fond of comparing his 
own commentary with that of Ts'ao Kung, but the comparison is not often 
flattering to him. We learn from Chfao Kung-wu that Wang Hsi revised the 
ancient text of Sun Tzu, filling up lacunae and correcting mistakes. [45] 

10. HO YEN-HSI of the Sung dynasty. The personal name of this 
commentator is given as above by Cheng Chfiao in the TUNG CHIH, 
written about the middle of the twelfth century, but he appears simply as 



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Ho Shih in the YU HAI, and Ma Tuan-lin quotes Chfao Kung-wu as saying 
that his personal name is unknown. There seems to be no reason to doubt 
Cheng Chfiao's statement, otherwise I should have been inclined to 
hazard a guess and identify him with one Ho Chfu-fei, the author of a 
short treatise on war, who lived in the latter part of the 11th century. Ho 
Shih's commentary, in the words of the "TIEN-I-KO catalogue, "contains 
helpful additions" here and there, but is chiefly remarkable for the copious 
extracts taken, in adapted form, from the dynastic histories and other 
sources. 

11 . CHANG YU. The list closes with a commentator of no great 
originality perhaps, but gifted with admirable powers of lucid exposition. 
His commentator is based on that of Ts'ao Kung, whose terse sentences 
he contrives to expand and develop in masterly fashion. Without Chang 
Yu, it is safe to say that much of Ts'ao Kung's commentary would have 
remained cloaked in its pristine obscurity and therefore valueless. His 
work is not mentioned in the Sung history, the T'UNG K x AO, or the YU 
HAI, but it finds a niche in the T'UNG CHIH, which also names him as the 
author of the "Lives of Famous Generals." [46] 

It is rather remarkable that the last-named four should all have 
flourished within so short a space of time. Chfao Kung-wu accounts for it 
by saying: "During the early years of the Sung dynasty the Empire enjoyed 
a long spell of peace, and men ceased to practice the art of war. but when 
[Chao] Yuan-hao's rebellion came [1038-42] and the frontier generals 
were defeated time after time, the Court made strenuous inquiry for men 
skilled in war, and military topics became the vogue amongst all the high 
officials. Hence it is that the commentators of Sun Tzu in our dynasty 
belong mainly to that period. [47] 

Besides these eleven commentators, there are several others 
whose work has not come down to us. The SUI SHU mentions four, 
namely Wang Ling (often quoted by Tu Yu as Wang Tzu); Chang Tzu- 
shang; Chia Hsu of Wei; [48] and Shen Yu of Wu. The TANG SHU adds 
Sun Hao, and the TUNG CHIH Hsiao Chi, while the TU SHU mentions a 
Ming commentator, Huang Jun-yu. It is possible that some of these may 
have been merely collectors and editors of other commentaries, like Chi 
T x ien-pao and Chi Hsieh, mentioned above. 



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Appreciations of Stm Tzn 

Sun Tzu has exercised a potent fascination over the minds of some 
of China's greatest men. Among the famous generals who are known to 
have studied his pages with enthusiasm may be mentioned Han Hsin (d. 
196 B.C.), [49] Feng I (d. 34 A.D.), [50] Lu Meng (d. 219), [51] and Yo Fei 
(1103-1141). [52] The opinion of Ts'ao Kung, who disputes with Han Hsin 
the highest place in Chinese military annals, has already been recorded. 
[53] Still more remarkable, in one way, is the testimony of purely literary 
men, such as Su Hsun (the father of Su Tung-p'o), who wrote several 
essays on military topics, all of which owe their chief inspiration to Sun 
Tzu. The following short passage by him is preserved in the YU HAI: [54] 

Sun Wu's saying, that in war one cannot make certain of 
conquering, [55] is very different indeed from what other 
books tell us. [56] Wu Chu was a man of the same stamp as 
Sun Wu: they both wrote books on war, and they are linked 
together in popular speech as "Sun and Wu." But Wu Chfi's 
remarks on war are less weighty, his rules are rougher and 
more crudely stated, and there is not the same unity of plan 
as in Sun Tzu's work, where the style is terse, but the 
meaning fully brought out. 

The following is an extract from the "Impartial Judgments in the 
Garden of Literature" by Cheng Hou: 

Sun Tzu's 13 chapters are not only the staple and base 
of all military men's training, but also compel the most 
careful attention of scholars and men of letters. His sayings 
are terse yet elegant, simple yet profound, perspicuous and 
eminently practical. Such works as the LUN YU, the I CHING 
and the great Commentary, [57] as well as the writings of 
Mencius, Hsun K'uang and Yang Chu, all fall below the level 
of Sun Tzu. 

Chu Hsi, commenting on this, fully admits the first part of the 
criticism, although he dislikes the audacious comparison with the 
venerated classical works. Language of this sort, he says, "encourages a 
ruler's bent towards unrelenting warfare and reckless militarism." 



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Apologies f or War 



Accustomed as we are to think of China as the greatest peace- 
loving nation on earth, we are in some danger of forgetting that her 
experience of war in all its phases has also been such as no modern State 
can parallel. Her long military annals stretch back to a point at which they 
are lost in the mists of time. She had built the Great Wall and was 
maintaining a huge standing army along her frontier centuries before the 
first Roman legionary was seen on the Danube. What with the perpetual 
collisions of the ancient feudal States, the grim conflicts with Huns, Turks 
and other invaders after the centralization of government, the terrific 
upheavals which accompanied the overthrow of so many dynasties, 
besides the countless rebellions and minor disturbances that have flamed 
up and flickered out again one by one, it is hardly too much to say that the 
clash of arms has never ceased to resound in one portion or another of 
the Empire. 

No less remarkable is the succession of illustrious captains to 
whom China can point with pride. As in all countries, the greatest are fond 
of emerging at the most fateful crises of her history. Thus, Po Chfi stands 
out conspicuous in the period when Chun was entering upon her final 
struggle with the remaining independent states. The stormy years which 
followed the break-up of the Chun dynasty are illuminated by the 
transcendent genius of Han Hsin. When the House of Han in turn is 
tottering to its fall, the great and baleful figure of Ts'ao Ts'ao dominates 
the scene. And in the establishment of the Tang dynasty, one of the 
mightiest tasks achieved by man, the superhuman energy of Li Shih-min 
(afterwards the Emperor T'ai Tsung) was seconded by the brilliant 
strategy of Li Ching. None of these generals need fear comparison with 
the greatest names in the military history of Europe. 

In spite of all this, the great body of Chinese sentiment, from Lao 
Tzu downwards, and especially as reflected in the standard literature of 
Confucianism, has been consistently pacific and intensely opposed to 
militarism in any form. It is such an uncommon thing to find any of the 
literati defending warfare on principle, that I have thought it worth while to 
collect and translate a few passages in which the unorthodox view is 
upheld. The following, by Ssu-ma Chfien, shows that for all his ardent 
admiration of Confucius, he was yet no advocate of peace at any price: 

Military weapons are the means used by the Sage to 
punish violence and cruelty, to give peace to troublous 
times, to remove difficulties and dangers, and to succor 
those who are in peril. Every animal with blood in its veins 
and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked. How 



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much more so will man, who carries in his breast the 
faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger! When he is 
pleased, a feeling of affection springs up within him; when 
angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play. That is the 
natural law which governs his being. What then shall be said 
of those scholars of our time, blind to all great issues, and 
without any appreciation of relative values, who can only 
bark out their stale formulas about "virtue" and "civilization," 
condemning the use of military weapons? They will surely 
bring our country to impotence and dishonor and the loss of 
her rightful heritage; or, at the very least, they will bring 
about invasion and rebellion, sacrifice of territory and 
general enfeeblement. Yet they obstinately refuse to modify 
the position they have taken up. The truth is that, just as in 
the family the teacher must not spare the rod, and 
punishments cannot be dispensed with in the State, so 
military chastisement can never be allowed to fall into 
abeyance in the Empire. All one can say is that this power 
will be exercised wisely by some, foolishly by others, and 
that among those who bear arms some will be loyal and 
others rebellious. [58] 

The next piece is taken from Tu Mu's preface to his commentary on 
Sun Tzu: 

War may be defined as punishment, which is one of the 
functions of government. It was the profession of Chung Yu 
and Jan Chfiu, both disciples of Confucius. Nowadays, the 
holding of trials and hearing of litigation, the imprisonment of 
offenders and their execution by flogging in the market- 
place, are all done by officials. But the wielding of huge 
armies, the throwing down of fortified cities, the hauling of 
women and children into captivity, and the beheading of 
traitors — this is also work which is done by officials. The 
objects of the rack and of military weapons are essentially 
the same. There is no intrinsic difference between the 
punishment of flogging and cutting off heads in war. For the 
lesser infractions of law, which are easily dealt with, only a 
small amount of force need be employed: hence the use of 
military weapons and wholesale decapitation. In both cases, 
however, the end in view is to get rid of wicked people, and 
to give comfort and relief to the good 

Chi-sun asked Jan Yu, saying: "Have you, Sir, acquired your 
military aptitude by study, or is it innate?" Jan Yu replied: "It has been 



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acquired by study." [59] "How can that be so," said Chi-sun, "seeing that 
you are a disciple of Confucius?" "It is a fact," replied Jan Yu; "I was 
taught by Confucius. It is fitting that the great Sage should exercise both 
civil and military functions, though to be sure my instruction in the art of 
fighting has not yet gone very far." 

Now, who the author was of this rigid distinction between the "civil" 
and the "military," and the limitation of each to a separate sphere of 
action, or in what year of which dynasty it was first introduced, is more 
than I can say. But, at any rate, it has come about that the members of the 
governing class are quite afraid of enlarging on military topics, or do so 
only in a shamefaced manner. If any are bold enough to discuss the 
subject, they are at once set down as eccentric individuals of coarse and 
brutal propensities. This is an extraordinary instance in which, through 
sheer lack of reasoning, men unhappily lose sight of fundamental 
principles. 

When the Duke of Chou was minister under Chfeng Wang, he 
regulated ceremonies and made music, and venerated the arts of 
scholarship and learning; yet when the barbarians of the River Huai 
revolted, [60] he sallied forth and chastised them. When Confucius held 
office under the Duke of Lu, and a meeting was convened at Chia-ku, [61] 
he said: "If pacific negotiations are in progress, warlike preparations 
should have been made beforehand." He rebuked and shamed the 
Marquis of Chfi, who cowered under him and dared not proceed to 
violence. How can it be said that these two great Sages had no knowledge 
of military matters? 

We have seen that the great Chu Hsi held Sun Tzu in high esteem. 
He also appeals to the authority of the Classics: 

Our Master Confucius, answering Duke Ling of Wei, 
said: "I have never studied matters connected with armies 
and battalions." [62] Replying to K'ung Wen-tzu, he said: I 
have not been instructed about buff-coats and weapons." 
But if we turn to the meeting at Chia-ku, we find that he used 
armed force against the men of Lai, so that the marquis of 
Chu was overawed. Again, when the inhabitants of Pi 
revolted, the ordered his officers to attack them, whereupon 
they were defeated and fled in confusion. He once uttered 
the words: "If I fight, I conquer." [63] And Jan Yu also said: 
"The Sage exercises both civil and military functions." [64] 
Can it be a fact that Confucius never studied or received 
instruction in the art of war? We can only say that he did not 
specially choose matters connected with armies and fighting 
to be the subject of his teaching. 



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Sun Hsing-yen, the editor of Sun Tzu, writes in similar strain: 

Confucius said: "I am unversed in military matters." [65] 
He also said: "If I fight, I conquer." Confucius ordered 
ceremonies and regulated music. Now war constitutes one of 
the five classes of State ceremonial, [66] and must not be 
treated as an independent branch of study. Hence, the 
words "I am unversed in" must be taken to mean that there 
are things which even an inspired Teacher does not know. 
Those who have to lead an army and devise stratagems, 
must learn the art of war. But if one can command the 
services of a good general like Sun Tzu, who was employed 
by Wu Tzu-hsu, there is no need to learn it oneself. Hence 
the remark added by Confucius: "If I fight, I conquer." 

The men of the present day, however, willfully interpret these words 
of Confucius in their narrowest sense, as though he meant that books on 
the art of war were not worth reading. With blind persistency, they adduce 
the example of Chao Kua, who pored over his father's books to no 
purpose, [67] as a proof that all military theory is useless. Again, seeing 
that books on war have to do with such things as opportunism in designing 
plans, and the conversion of spies, they hold that the art is immoral and 
unworthy of a sage. These people ignore the fact that the studies of our 
scholars and the civil administration of our officials also require steady 
application and practice before efficiency is reached. The ancients were 
particularly chary of allowing mere novices to botch their work. [68] 
Weapons are baneful [69] and fighting perilous; and useless unless a 
general is in constant practice, he ought not to hazard other men's lives in 
battle. [70] Hence it is essential that Sun Tzu's 13 chapters should be 
studied. 

Hsiang Liang used to instruct his nephew Chi [71] in the art of war. 
Chi got a rough idea of the art in its general bearings, but would not 
pursue his studies to their proper outcome, the consequence being that he 
was finally defeated and overthrown. He did not realize that the tricks and 
artifices of war are beyond verbal computation. Duke Hsiang of Sung and 
King Yen of Hsu were brought to destruction by their misplaced humanity. 
The treacherous and underhand nature of war necessitates the use of 
guile and stratagem suited to the occasion. There is a case on record of 
Confucius himself having violated an extorted oath, [72] and also of his 
having left the Sung State in disguise. [73] Can we then recklessly arraign 
Sun Tzu for disregarding truth and honesty? 



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Bibliography 

The following are the oldest Chinese treatises on war, after Sun 
Tzu. The notes on each have been drawn principally from the SSU K X U 
ChrilAN SHU CHIEN MING MU LU, ch. 9, fol. 22 sqq. 

1 . WU TZU, in 1 CHUAN or 6 chapters. By Wu CIV i (d. 381 B.C.). A 
genuine work. See SHIH CHI, ch. 65. 

2. SSU-MA FA, in 1 CHUAN or 5 chapters. Wrongly attributed to 
Ssu-ma Jang-chu of the 6th century B.C. Its date, however, must be early, 
as the customs of the three ancient dynasties are constantly to be met 
within its pages. See SHIH CHI, ch. 64. 

The SSU ICU ChTUAN SHU (ch. 99, f. 1) remarks that the oldest 
three treatises on war, SUN TZU, WU TZU and SSU-MA FA, are, generally 
speaking, only concerned with things strictly military — the art of 
producing, collecting, training and drilling troops, and the correct theory 
with regard to measures of expediency, laying plans, transport of goods 
and the handling of soldiers — in strong contrast to later works, in which 
the science of war is usually blended with metaphysics, divination and 
magical arts in general. 

3. LIU FAO, in 6 CHUAN, or 60 chapters. Attributed to Lu Wang (or 
Lu Shang, also known as T'ai Kung) of the 12th century B.C. [74] But its 
style does not belong to the era of the Three Dynasties. Lu Te-ming (550- 
625 A.D.) mentions the work, and enumerates the headings of the six 
sections so that the forgery cannot have been later than Sui dynasty. 

4. WEI LIAO TZU, in 5 CHUAN. Attributed to Wei Liao (4th cent. 
B.C.), who studied under the famous Kuei-ku Tzu. The work appears to 
have been originally in 31 chapters, whereas the text we possess contains 
only 24. Its matter is sound enough in the main, though the strategical 
devices differ considerably from those of the Warring States period. It is 
been furnished with a commentary by the well-known Sung philosopher 
Chang Tsai. 

5. SAN LUEH, in 3 CHUAN. Attributed to Huang-shih Kung, a 
legendary personage who is said to have bestowed it on Chang Liang (d. 
187 B.C.) in an interview on a bridge. But here again, the style is not that 
of works dating from the Chun or Han period. The Han Emperor Kuang Wu 
[25-57 A.D.] apparently quotes from it in one of his proclamations; but the 
passage in question may have been inserted later on, in order to prove the 
genuineness of the work. We shall not be far out if we refer it to the 
Northern Sung period [420-478 A.D.], or somewhat earlier. 

6. LI WEI KUNG WEN TUI, in 3 sections. Written in the form of a 
dialogue between T'ai Tsung and his great general Li Ching, it is usually 
ascribed to the latter. Competent authorities consider it a forgery, though 
the author was evidently well versed in the art of war. 

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7. LI CHING PING FA (not to be confounded with the foregoing) is 
a short treatise in 8 chapters, preserved in the "Tung Tien, but not 
published separately. This fact explains its omission from the SSU ICU 
CI-rilAN SHU. 

8. WU Chn CHING, in 1 CHUAN. Attributed to the legendary 
minister Feng Hou, with exegetical notes by Kung-sun Hung of the Han 
dynasty (d. 121 B.C.), and said to have been eulogized by the celebrated 
general Ma Lung (d. 300 A.D.). Yet the earliest mention of it is in the 
SUNG CHIH. Although a forgery, the work is well put together. 

Considering the high popular estimation in which Chu-ko Liang has 
always been held, it is not surprising to find more than one work on war 
ascribed to his pen. Such are (1) the SHIH LIU TS^E (1 CHUAN), 
preserved in the YUNG LO TA TIEN; (2) CHIANG YUAN (1 CHUAN); and 
(3) HSIN SHU (1 CHUAN), which steals wholesale from Sun Tzu. None of 
these has the slightest claim to be considered genuine. 

Most of the large Chinese encyclopedias contain extensive sections 
devoted to the literature of war. The following references may be found 
useful: 

FUNG TIEN (circa 800 A.D.), ch. 148-162. 

FAI P^ING YU LAN (983), ch. 270-359. 

WEN HSIEN TUNG ICAO (13th cent.), ch. 221. 

YU HAI (13th cent.), ch. 140, 141. 

SAN TS^AI FU HUI (16th cent). 

KUANG PO WU CHIH (1607), ch. 31, 32. 

CI-TIEN d-TIO LEI SHU (1632), ch. 75. 

YUAN CHIEN LEI HAN (1710), ch. 206-229. 

KU CHIN FU SHU CHI ChTENG (1726), section XXX, esp. ch. 81- 
90. 

HSU WEN HSIEN FUNG ICAO (1784), ch. 121-134. 

HUANG ChTAO CHING SHIH WEN PIEN (1826), ch. 76, 77. 

The bibliographical sections of certain historical works also deserve 
mention: 

CH^IEN HAN SHU,ch. 30. 

SUI SHU,ch. 32-35. 

CHIU FANG SHU,ch. 46, 47. 

HSIN FANG SHU,ch. 57,60. 

SUNG SHIH,ch. 202-209. 

FUNG CHIH (circa 1150), ch. 68. 

To these of course must be added the great Catalogue of the 
Imperial Library: 

SSU ICU ChTUAN SHU TSUNG MU Fl YAO (1790), ch. 99, 100. 



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Footnotes 



1. SHI CHI, ch. 65. 

2. He reigned from 514 to 496 B.C. 

3. SHI CHI.ch. 130. 

4. The appellation of Nang Wa. 

5. SHI CHI, ch. 31. 

6. SHI CHI, ch. 25. 

7. The appellation of Hu Yen, mentioned in ch. 39 under the year 



637. 



8. Wang-tzu Chfeng-fu, ch. 32, year 607. 

9. The mistake is natural enough. Native critics refer to a work of 
the Han dynasty, which says: "Ten LI outside the WU gate [of the city of 
Wu, now Soochow in Kiangsu] there is a great mound, raised to 
commemorate the entertainment of Sun Wu of Chfi, who excelled in the 
art of war, by the King of Wu." 

10. "They attached strings to wood to make bows, and sharpened 
wood to make arrows. The use of bows and arrows is to keep the Empire 
in awe." 

1 1 . The son and successor of Ho Lu. He was finally defeated and 
overthrown by Kou chien, King of Yueh, in 473 B.C. See post. 

12. King Yen of Hsu, a fabulous being, of whom Sun Hsing-yen 
says in his preface: "His humanity brought him to destruction." 

13. The passage I have put in brackets is omitted in the T\J SHU, 
and may be an interpolation. It was known, however to Chang Shou-chieh 
of the Tang dynasty, and appears in the TA\ P X ING YU LAN. 

14. Ts'ao Kung seems to be thinking of the first part of chap. II, 
perhaps especially of ss. 8. 

15. See chap. XI. 

16. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that WU TZU, which is not in 
6 chapters, has 48 assigned to it in the HAN CHIH. Likewise, the CHUNG 
YUNG is credited with 49 chapters, though now only in one only. In the 
case of very short works, one is tempted to think that P'lEN might simply 
mean "leaves." 

17. Yeh Shih of the Sung dynasty [1151-1223]. 

18. He hardly deserves to be bracketed with assassins. 

1 9. See Chapter 7, ss. 27 and Chapter 11, ss. 28. 

20. See Chapter 11, ss. 28. Chuan Chu is the abbreviated form of 
his name. 

21. I.e. Po P x ei. See ante. 

22. The nucleus of this work is probably genuine, though large 
additions have been made by later hands. Kuan chung died in 645 B.C. 

23. See infra, beginning of INTRODUCTION. 

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24. I do not know what this work, unless it be the last chapter of 
another work. Why that chapter should be singled out, however, is not 
clear. 

25. About 480 B.C. 

26. That is, I suppose, the age of Wu Wang and Chou Kung. 

27. In the 3rd century B.C. 

28. Ssu-ma Jang-chu, whose family name was Tien, lived in the 
latter half of the 6th century B.C., and is also believed to have written a 
work on war. See SHIH CHI, ch. 64, and infra at the beginning of the 
INTRODUCTION. 

29. See Legge's Classics, vol. V, Prolegomena p. 27. Legge thinks 
that the TSO CHUAN must have been written in the 5th century, but not 
before 424 B.C. 

30. See MENCIUS III. 1. iii. 13-20. 

31. When Wu first appears in the CITUN CITIU in 584, it is already 
at variance with its powerful neighbor. The CITUN CITIU first mentions 
Yueh in 537, the TSO CHUAN in 601. 

32. This is explicitly stated in the TSO CHUAN, XXXII, 2. 

33. There is this to be said for the later period, that the feud would 
tend to grow more bitter after each encounter, and thus more fully justify 
the language used in XI. ss. 30. 

34. With Wu Yuan himself the case is just the reverse: — a 
spurious treatise on war has been fathered on him simply because he was 
a great general. Here we have an obvious inducement to forgery. Sun Wu, 
on the other hand, cannot have been widely known to fame in the 5th 
century. 

35. From TSO CHUAN: "From the date of King Chao's accession 
[515] there was no year in which Chfu was not attacked by Wu." 

36. Preface ad fin: "My family comes from Lo-an, and we are really 
descended from Sun Tzu. I am ashamed to say that I only read my 
ancestor's work from a literary point of view, without comprehending the 
military technique. So long have we been enjoying the blessings of 
peace!" 

37. Hoa-yin is about 14 miles from Tung-kuan on the eastern 
border of Shensi. The temple in question is still visited by those about the 
ascent of the Western Sacred Mountain. It is mentioned in a text as being 
"situated five LI east of the district city of Hua-yin. The temple contains the 
Hua-shan tablet inscribed by the Tang Emperor Hsuan Tsung [713-755]." 

38. See my "Catalogue of Chinese Books" (Luzac & Co., 1908), no. 
40. 

39. This is a discussion of 29 difficult passages in Sun Tzu. 



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40. Cf. Catalogue of the library of Fan family at Ningpo: "His 
commentary is frequently obscure; it furnishes a clue, but does not fully 
develop the meaning." 

41. WEN HSIEN FUNG ICAO, ch. 221. 

42. It is interesting to note that M. Pelliot has recently discovered 
chapters 1 , 4 and 5 of this lost work in the "Grottos of the Thousand 
Buddhas." See B.E.F.E.O., t. VIII, nos. 3-4, p. 525. 

43. The Hsia, the Shang and the Chou. Although the last-named 
was nominally existent in Sun Tzu's day, it retained hardly a vestige of 
power, and the old military organization had practically gone by the board. 
I can suggest no other explanation of the passage. 

44. See CHOU LI, xxix. 6-10. 

45. FUNG ICAO, ch. 221. 

46. This appears to be still extant. See Wylie's "Notes," p. 91 (new 
edition). 

47. FUNG ICAO, loc. cit. 

48. A notable person in his day. His biography is given in the SAN 
KUO CHIH,ch. 10. 

49. See XI. ss. 58, note. 

50. HOU HAN SHU, ch. 17 ad init. 

51. SAN KUO CHIH, ch. 54. 

52. SUNG SHIH, ch. 365 ad init. 

53. The few Europeans who have yet had an opportunity of 
acquainting themselves with Sun Tzu are not behindhand in their praise. 
In this connection, I may perhaps be excused for quoting from a letter 
from Lord Roberts, to whom the sheets of the present work were 
submitted previous to publication: "Many of Sun Wu's maxims are 
perfectly applicable to the present day, and no. 11 [in Chapter VIII] is one 
that the people of this country would do well to take to heart." 

54. Ch. 140. 

55. See IV. ss. 3. 

56. The allusion may be to Mencius VI. 2. ix. 2. 

57. TheTSO CHUAN. 

58. SHIH CHI,ch. 25, fol. I. 

59. Cf. SHIH CHI, ch47. 

60. See SHU CHING, preface ss. 55. 

61. See SHIH CHI, ch. 47. 

62. Lun Yu, XV. 1. 

63. I failed to trace this utterance. 

64. Supra. 

65. Supra. 



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66. The other four being worship, mourning, entertainment of 
guests, and festive rites. See SHU CHING, ii. 1. III. 8, and CHOU LI, IX. 
fol. 49. 

67. See XIII. ss. 11, note. 

68. This is a rather obscure allusion to the TSO CHUAN, where 
Tzu-chf an says: "If you have a piece of beautiful brocade, you will not 
employ a mere learner to make it up." 

69. Cf. TAOTE CHING, ch. 31. 

70. Sun Hsing-yen might have quoted Confucius again. See LUN 
YU, XIII. 29, 30. 

71. Better known as Hsiang Yu [233-202 B.C.]. 

72. SHIH CHI, ch. 47. 

73. SHIH CHI, ch. 38. 

74. See XIII. ss. 27, note. Further details on T x ai Kung will be found 
in the SHIH CHI, ch. 32 ad init. Besides the tradition which makes him a 
former minister of Chou Hsin, two other accounts of him are there given, 
according to which he would appear to have been first raised from a 
humble private station by Wen Wang. 



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The Ait of War 



L Laying Plans 



[Ts'ao Kung, in defining the meaning of the Chinese for 
the title of this chapter, says it refers to the deliberations in 
the temple selected by the general for his temporary use, or 
as we should say, in his tent. See. ss. 26.] 

1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to 

the State. 

2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety 

or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can 
on no account be neglected. 

3. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant 

factors, to be taken into account in one's 
deliberations, when seeking to determine the 
conditions obtaining in the field. 

4. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; 

(4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline. 

[It appears from what follows that Sun Tzu means by 
"Moral Law" a principle of harmony, not unlike the Tao of Lao 
Tzu in its moral aspect. One might be tempted to render it by 
"morale," were it not considered as an attribute of the ruler 
in ss. 13.] 

5. 6. The MORAL LAW causes the people to be in 

complete accord with their ruler, so that they will 
follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by 
any danger. 

[Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "Without constant 
practice, the officers will be nervous and undecided when 
mustering for battle; without constant practice, the general 
will be wavering and irresolute when the crisis is at hand."] 



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7. HEAVEN signifies night and day, cold and heat, times 

and seasons. 

[The commentators, I think, make an unnecessary 
mystery of two words here. Meng Shih refers to "the hard 
and the soft, waxing and waning" of Heaven. Wang Hsi, 
however, may be right in saying that what is meant is "the 
general economy of Heaven," including the five elements, 
the four seasons, wind and clouds, and other phenomena.] 

8. EARTH comprises distances, great and small; danger 

and security; open ground and narrow passes; the 
chances of life and death. 

9. The COMMANDER stands for the virtues of wisdom, 

sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness. 

[The five cardinal virtues of the Chinese are (1) 
humanity or benevolence; (2) uprightness of mind; (3) self- 
respect, self-control, or "proper feeling;" (4) wisdom; (5) 
sincerity or good faith. Here "wisdom" and "sincerity" are put 
before "humanity or benevolence," and the two military 
virtues of "courage" and "strictness" substituted for 
"uprightness of mind" and "self-respect, self-control, or 
'proper feeling.'"] 

10. By METHOD AND DISCI PLI NE are to be understood 
the marshaling of the army in its proper 
subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the 
officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies 
may reach the army, and the control of military 
expenditure. 

11. These five heads should be familiar to every 
general: he who knows them will be victorious; he 
who knows them not will fail. 

12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to 
determine the military conditions, let them be made 
the basis of a comparison, in this wise: 

13. (1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the 
Moral law? 

[I.e., "is in harmony with his subjects." Cf. ss. 5.] 



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(2) Which of the two generals has most ability? 

(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven 
and Earth? 

[See ss. 7,8] 

(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously 
enforced? 

[Tu Mu alludes to the remarkable story of Ts'ao Ts'ao 
(A.D. 155-220), who was such a strict disciplinarian that 
once, in accordance with his own severe regulations against 
injury to standing crops, he condemned himself to death for 
having allowed him horse to shy into a field of corn! 
However, in lieu of losing his head, he was persuaded to 
satisfy his sense of justice by cutting off his hair. Ts'ao 
Ts'ao's own comment on the present passage is 
characteristically curt: "when you lay down a law, see that it 
is not disobeyed; if it is disobeyed the offender must be put 
to death."] 

(5) Which army is stronger? 

[Morally as well as physically. As Mei Yao-chf en puts it, 
freely rendered, "ESPIRIT DE CORPS and 'big battalions.'"] 

(6) On which side are officers and men more highly 
trained? 

[Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "Without constant 
practice, the officers will be nervous and undecided when 
mustering for battle; without constant practice, the general 
will be wavering and irresolute when the crisis is at hand."] 

(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in 
reward and punishment? 

[0 n which side is there the most absolute certainty that merit will be 
properly rewarded and misdeeds summarily punished?] 

14. By means of these seven considerations I can 
forecast victory or defeat. 

15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts 
upon it, will conquer: — let such a one be retained in 
command! The general that hearkens not to my 



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counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat: — let 

such a one be dismissed! 

[The form of this paragraph reminds us that SunTzu's treatise was 
composed expressly for the benefit of his patron H o Lu, king of the W u State.] 

16. While heading the profit of my counsel, avail 
yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and 
beyond the ordinary rules. 

17. According as circumstances are favorable, one 
should modify one's plans. 

[Sun Tzu, as a practical soldier, will have none of the 
"bookish theoric." He cautions us here not to pin our faith to 
abstract principles; "for," as Chang Yu puts it, "while the 
main laws of strategy can be stated clearly enough for the 
benefit of all and sundry, you must be guided by the actions 
of the enemy in attempting to secure a favorable position in 
actual warfare." On the eve of the battle of Waterloo, Lord 
Uxbridge, commanding the cavalry, went to the Duke of 
Wellington in order to learn what his plans and calculations 
were for the morrow, because, as he explained, he might 
suddenly find himself Commander-in-chief and would be 
unable to frame new plans in a critical moment. The Duke 
listened quietly and then said: "Who will attack the first 
tomorrow — I or Bonaparte?" "Bonaparte," replied Lord 
Uxbridge. "Well," continued the Duke, "Bonaparte has not 
given me any idea of his projects; and as my plans will 
depend upon his, how can you expect me to tell you what 
mine are?" [1]] 

18. All warfare is based on deception. 

[The truth of this pithy and profound saying will be 
admitted by every soldier. Col. Henderson tells us that 
Wellington, great in so many military qualities, was 
especially distinguished by "the extraordinary skill with which 
he concealed his movements and deceived both friend and 
foe."] 

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; 
when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when 
we are near, we must make the enemy believe we 



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are far away; when far away, we must make him 
believe we are near. 

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, 
and crush him. 

[All commentators, except Chang Yu, say, "When he is 
in disorder, crush him." It is more natural to suppose that 
Sun Tzu is still illustrating the uses of deception in war.] 

21. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If 
he is in superior strength, evade him. 

22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to 
irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow 
arrogant. 

[Wang Tzu, quoted by Tu Yu, says that the good 
tactician plays with his adversary as a cat plays with a 
mouse, first feigning weakness and immobility, and then 
suddenly pouncing upon him.] 

23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. 

[This is probably the meaning though Mei Yao-chf en has 
the note: "while we are taking our ease, wait for the enemy 
to tire himself out." The YU LAN has "Lure him on and tire 
him out."] 

If his forces are united, separate them. 

[Less plausible is the interpretation favored by most of 
the commentators: "If sovereign and subject are in accord, 
put division between them."] 

24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where 
you are not expected. 

25. These military devices, leading to victory, must not 
be divulged beforehand. 

26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many 
calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. 

[Chang Yu tells us that in ancient times it was customary 
for a temple to be set apart for the use of a general who was 
about to take the field, in order that he might there elaborate 
his plan of campaign.] 

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The general who loses a battle makes but few 

calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations 
lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how 
much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to 
this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or 
lose. 



[1] "Words on Wellington," by Sir. W. Fraser. 



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II Waging War 



[Ts'ao Kung has the note: "He who wishes to fight must 
first count the cost," which prepares us for the discovery that 
the subject of the chapter is not what we might expect from 
the title, but is primarily a consideration of ways and means.] 

1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there 

are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many 
heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad 
soldiers, 

[The "swift chariots" were lightly built and, according to 
Chang Yu, used for the attack; the "heavy chariots" were 
heavier, and designed for purposes of defense. Li Chfuan, it 
is true, says that the latter were light, but this seems hardly 
probable. It is interesting to note the analogies between 
early Chinese warfare and that of the Homeric Greeks. In 
each case, the war-chariot was the important factor, forming 
as it did the nucleus round which was grouped a certain 
number of foot-soldiers. With regard to the numbers given 
here, we are informed that each swift chariot was 
accompanied by 75 footmen, and each heavy chariot by 25 
footmen, so that the whole army would be divided up into a 
thousand battalions, each consisting of two chariots and a 
hundred men.] 

with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, 

[2.78 modern LI go to a mile. The length may have 
varied slightly since Sun Tzu's time.] 

the expenditure at home and at the front, including 
entertainment of guests, small items such as glue 
and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, 
will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver 
per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 
100,000 men. 

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long 

in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and 
their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a 
town, you will exhaust your strength. 



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3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of 

the State will not be equal to the strain. 

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor 

damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure 
spent, other chieftains will spring up to take 
advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however 
wise, will be able to avert the consequences that 
must ensue. 

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, 

cleverness has never been seen associated with long 
delays. 

[This concise and difficult sentence is not well explained 
by any of the commentators. Ts'ao Kung, Li Chfuan, Meng 
Shih, Tu Yu, Tu Mu and Mei Yao-chfen have notes to the 
effect that a general, though naturally stupid, may 
nevertheless conquer through sheer force of rapidity. Ho 
Shih says: "Haste may be stupid, but at any rate it saves 
expenditure of energy and treasure; protracted operations 
may be very clever, but they bring calamity in their train." 
Wang Hsi evades the difficulty by remarking: "Lengthy 
operations mean an army growing old, wealth being 
expended, an empty exchequer and distress among the 
people; true cleverness insures against the occurrence of 
such calamities." Chang Yu says: "So long as victory can be 
attained, stupid haste is preferable to clever dilatoriness." 
Now Sun Tzu says nothing whatever, except possibly by 
implication, about ill-considered haste being better than 
ingenious but lengthy operations. What he does say is 
something much more guarded, namely that, while speed 
may sometimes be injudicious, tardiness can never be 
anything but foolish — if only because it means 
impoverishment to the nation. In considering the point raised 
here by Sun Tzu, the classic example of Fabius Cunctator 
will inevitably occur to the mind. That general deliberately 
measured the endurance of Rome against that of 
Hannibals's isolated army, because it seemed to him that the 
latter was more likely to suffer from a long campaign in a 
strange country. But it is quite a moot question whether his 
tactics would have proved successful in the long run. Their 



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reversal it is true, led to Cannae; but this only establishes a 
negative presumption in their favor.] 

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited 

from prolonged warfare. 

7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the 

evils of war that can thoroughly understand the 
profitable way of carrying it on. 

[That is, with rapidity. Only one who knows the 
disastrous effects of a long war can realize the supreme 
importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close. Only two 
commentators seem to favor this interpretation, but it fits 
well into the logic of the context, whereas the rendering, "He 
who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its 
benefits," is distinctly pointless.] 

8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, 

neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than 
twice. 

[Once war is declared, he will not waste precious time in 
waiting for reinforcements, nor will he return his army back 
for fresh supplies, but crosses the enemy's frontier without 
delay. This may seem an audacious policy to recommend, 
but with all great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Napoleon 
Bonaparte, the value of time — that is, being a little ahead of 
your opponent has counted for more than either numerical 
superiority or the nicest calculations with regard to 
commissariat.] 

9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on 

the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for 
its needs. 

[The Chinese word translated here as "war material" 
literally means "things to be used", and is meant in the 
widest sense. It includes all the impedimenta of an army, 
apart from provisions.] 

10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to 
be maintained by contributions from a distance. 
Contributing to maintain an army at a distance 
causes the people to be impoverished. 



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[The beginning of this sentence does not balance 
properly with the next, though obviously intended to do so. 
The arrangement, moreover, is so awkward that I cannot 
help suspecting some corruption in the text. It never seems 
to occur to Chinese commentators that an emendation may 
be necessary for the sense, and we get no help from them 
there. The Chinese words Sun Tzu used to indicate the 
cause of the people's impoverishment clearly have reference 
to some system by which the husbandmen sent their 
contributions of corn to the army direct. But why should it fall 
on them to maintain an army in this way, except because the 
State or Government is too poor to do so?] 

11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes 
prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's 
substance to be drained away. 

[Wang Hsi says high prices occur before the army has 
left its own territory. Ts'ao Kung understands it of an army 
that has already crossed the frontier.] 

12. When their substance is drained away, the 
peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions. 

13. 14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of 
strength, the homes of the people will be stripped 
bare, and three-tenths of their income will be 
dissipated; 

[Tu Mu and Wang Hsi agree that the people are not 
mulcted not of 3/10, but of 7/10, of their income. But this is 
hardly to be extracted from our text. Ho Shih has a 
characteristic tag: "The PEOPLE being regarded as the 
essential part of the State, and FOOD as the people's 
heaven, is it not right that those in authority should value 
and be careful of both?"] 

while government expenses for broken chariots, 
worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows 
and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, 
draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four- 
tenths of its total revenue. 



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15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on 
the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is 
equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a 
single PICUL of his provender is equivalent to twenty 
from one's own store. 

[Because twenty cartloads will be consumed in the 
process of transporting one cartload to the front. A PICUL is 
a unit of measure equal to 133.3 pounds (65.5 kilograms).] 

16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be 
roused to anger; that there may be advantage from 
defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. 

[Tu Mu says: "Rewards are necessary in order to make 
the soldiers see the advantage of beating the enemy; thus, 
when you capture spoils from the enemy, they must be used 
as rewards, so that all your men may have a keen desire to 
fight, each on his own account."] 

17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more 
chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded 
who took the first. Our own flags should be 
substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots 
mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The 
captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. 

18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment 
one's own strength. 

19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not 
lengthy campaigns. 

[As Ho Shih remarks: "War is not a thing to be trifled 
with." Sun Tzu here reiterates the main lesson which this 
chapter is intended to enforce."] 

20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is 
the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it 
depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in 
peril. 



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III Attack by Stxategem 



Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best 
thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and 
intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, 
too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to 
destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a 
company entire than to destroy them. 

[The equivalent to an army corps, according to Ssu-ma 
Fa, consisted nominally of 12500 men; according to Ts'ao 
Kung, the equivalent of a regiment contained 500 men, the 
equivalent to a detachment consists from any number 
between 100 and 500, and the equivalent of a company 
contains from 5 to 100 men. For the last two, however, 
Chang Yu gives the exact figures of 100 and 5 respectively.] 

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not 
supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in 
breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. 

[Here again, no modern strategist but will approve the 
words of the old Chinese general. Moltke's greatest triumph, 
the capitulation of the huge French army at Sedan, was won 
practically without bloodshed.] 

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the 
enemy's plans; 

[Perhaps the word "balk" falls short of expressing the full 
force of the Chinese word, which implies not an attitude of 
defense, whereby one might be content to foil the enemy's 
stratagems one after another, but an active policy of 
counter-attack. Ho Shih puts this very clearly in his note: 
"When the enemy has made a plan of attack against us, we 
must anticipate him by delivering our own attack first."] 

the next best is to prevent the junction of the 
enemy's forces; 

[Isolating him from his allies. We must not forget that 
Sun Tzu, in speaking of hostilities, always has in mind the 
numerous states or principalities into which the China of his 
day was split up.] 



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the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in 
the field; 

[When he is already at full strength.] 

and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled 
cities. 

1. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can 
possibly be avoided. 

[Another sound piece of military theory. Had the Boers 
acted upon it in 1899, and refrained from dissipating their 
strength before Kimberley, Mafeking, or even Ladysmith, it is 
more than probable that they would have been masters of 
the situation before the British were ready seriously to 
oppose them.] 

The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and 
various implements of war, will take up three whole 
months; 

[It is not quite clear what the Chinese word, here 
translated as "mantlets", described. Ts'ao Kung simply 
defines them as "large shields," but we get a better idea of 
them from Li Chfuan, who says they were to protect the 
heads of those who were assaulting the city walls at close 
quarters. This seems to suggest a sort of Roman TESTUDO, 
ready made. Tu Mu says they were wheeled vehicles used in 
repelling attacks, but this is denied by Chfen Hao. See supra 
II. 14. The name is also applied to turrets on city walls. Of 
the "movable shelters" we get a fairly clear description from 
several commentators. They were wooden missile-proof 
structures on four wheels, propelled from within, covered 
over with raw hides, and used in sieges to convey parties of 
men to and from the walls, for the purpose of filling up the 
encircling moat with earth. Tu Mu adds that they are now 
called "wooden donkeys."] 

and the piling up of mounds over against the walls 
will take three months more. 

[These were great mounds or ramparts of earth heaped 
up to the level of the enemy's walls in order to discover the 
weak points in the defense, and also to destroy the fortified 
turrets mentioned in the preceding note.] 

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5. The general, unable to control his irritation, will 

launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, 

[This vivid simile of Ts'ao Kung is taken from the 
spectacle of an army of ants climbing a wall. The meaning is 
that the general, losing patience at the long delay, may make 
a premature attempt to storm the place before his engines of 
war are ready.] 

with the result that one-third of his men are slain, 
while the town still remains untaken. Such are the 
disastrous effects of a siege. 

[We are reminded of the terrible losses of the Japanese 
before Port Arthur, in the most recent siege which history 
has to record.] 

6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's 

troops without any fighting; he captures their cities 
without laying siege to them; he overthrows their 
kingdom without lengthy operations in the field. 

[Chia Lin notes that he only overthrows the Government, 
but does no harm to individuals. The classical instance is 
Wu Wang, who after having put an end to the Yin dynasty 
was acclaimed "Father and mother of the people."] 

7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of 

the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his 
triumph will be complete. 

[Owing to the double meanings in the Chinese text, the 
latter part of the sentence is susceptible of quite a different 
meaning: "And thus, the weapon not being blunted by use, 
its keenness remains perfect."] 

This is the method of attacking by stratagem. 

8. It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the 

enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to 
attack him; 

[Straightway, without waiting for any further advantage.] 

if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two. 



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[Tu Mu takes exception to the saying; and at first sight, 
indeed, it appears to violate a fundamental principle of war. 
Ts'ao Kung, however, gives a clue to Sun Tzu's meaning: 
"Being two to the enemy's one, we may use one part of our 
army in the regular way, and the other for some special 
diversion." Chang Yu thus further elucidates the point: "If our 
force is twice as numerous as that of the enemy, it should be 
split up into two divisions, one to meet the enemy in front, 
and one to fall upon his rear; if he replies to the frontal 
attack, he may be crushed from behind; if to the rearward 
attack, he may be crushed in front." This is what is meant by 
saying that 'one part may be used in the regular way, and 
the other for some special diversion.' Tu Mu does not 
understand that dividing one's army is simply an irregular, 
just as concentrating it is the regular, strategical method, 
and he is too hasty in calling this a mistake."] 

9. If equally matched, we can offer battle; 

[Li Chf uan, followed by Ho Shih, gives the following 
paraphrase: "If attackers and attacked are equally matched 
in strength, only the able general will fight."] 

if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the 
enemy; 

[The meaning, "we can WATCH the enemy," is certainly 
a great improvement on the above; but unfortunately there 
appears to be no very good authority for the variant. Chang 
Yu reminds us that the saying only applies if the other 
factors are equal; a small difference in numbers is often 
more than counterbalanced by superior energy and 
discipline.] 

if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him. 

10. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a 
small force, in the end it must be captured by the 
larger force. 

11. Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the 
bulwark is complete at all points; the State will be 
strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will be 
weak. 



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[As Li Chfuan tersely puts it: "Gap indicates deficiency; 
if the general's ability is not perfect (i.e. if he is not 
thoroughly versed in his profession), his army will lack 
strength."] 

12. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring 
misfortune upon his army: 

13. (1) By commanding the army to advance or to 
retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot 
obey. This is called hobbling the army. 

[Li Chf uan adds the comment: "It is like tying together 
the legs of a thoroughbred, so that it is unable to gallop." 
One would naturally think of "the ruler" in this passage as 
being at home, and trying to direct the movements of his 
army from a distance. But the commentators understand just 
the reverse, and quote the saying of "Tai Kung: "A kingdom 
should not be governed from without, and army should not 
be directed from within." Of course it is true that, during an 
engagement, or when in close touch with the enemy, the 
general should not be in the thick of his own troops, but a 
little distance apart. Otherwise, he will be liable to misjudge 
the position as a whole, and give wrong orders.] 

14. (2) By attempting to govern an army in the same 
way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of 
the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes 
restlessness in the soldier's minds. 

[Ts'ao Kung's note is, freely translated: "The military 
sphere and the civil sphere are wholly distinct; you can't 
handle an army in kid gloves." And Chang Yu says: 
"Humanity and justice are the principles on which to govern 
a state, but not an army; opportunism and flexibility, on the 
other hand, are military rather than civil virtues to assimilate 
the governing of an army" — to that of a State, understood.] 

15. (3) By employing the officers of his army without 
discrimination, 

[That is, he is not careful to use the right man in the 
right place.] 



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through ignorance of the military principle of 
adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the 
confidence of the soldiers. 

[I follow Mei Yao-chf en here. The other commentators 
refer not to the ruler, as in SS. 13, 14, but to the officers he 
employs. Thus Tu Yu says: "If a general is ignorant of the 
principle of adaptability, he must not be entrusted with a 
position of authority." Tu Mu quotes: "The skillful employer of 
men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous 
man, and the stupid man. For the wise man delights in 
establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his 
courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing 
advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death."] 

16. But when the army is restless and distrustful, 
trouble is sure to come from the other feudal 
princes. This is simply bringing anarchy into the 
army, and flinging victory away. 

17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for 
victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and 
when not to fight. 

[Chang Yu says: If he can fight, he advances and takes 
the offensive; if he cannot fight, he retreats and remains on 
the defensive. He will invariably conquer who knows whether 
it is right to take the offensive or the defensive.] 

(2) He will win who knows how to handle both 
superior and inferior forces. 

[This is not merely the general's ability to estimate 
numbers correctly, as Li Chfuan and others make out. Chang 
Yu expounds the saying more satisfactorily: "By applying the 
art of war, it is possible with a lesser force to defeat a 
greater, and vice versa. The secret lies in an eye for locality, 
and in not letting the right moment slip. Thus Wu Tzu says: 
'With a superior force, make for easy ground; with an inferior 
one, make for difficult ground.'"] 

(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same 
spirit throughout all its ranks. 



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(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take 
the enemy unprepared. 

(5) He will win who has military capacity and is not 
interfered with by the sovereign. 

[Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "It is the sovereign's 
function to give broad instructions, but to decide on battle it 
is the function of the general." It is needless to dilate on the 
military disasters which have been caused by undue 
interference with operations in the field on the part of the 
home government. Napoleon undoubtedly owed much of his 
extraordinary success to the fact that he was not hampered 
by central authority.] 

18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know 
yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred 
battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for 
every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. 

[Li Chf uan cites the case of Fu Chien, prince of Chun, 
who in 383 A.D. marched with a vast army against the Chin 
Emperor. When warned not to despise an enemy who could 
command the services of such men as Hsieh An and Huan 
Chf ung, he boastfully replied: "I have the population of eight 
provinces at my back, infantry and horsemen to the number 
of one million; why, they could dam up the Yangtsze River 
itself by merely throwing their whips into the stream. What 
danger have I to fear?" Nevertheless, his forces were soon 
after disastrously routed at the Fei River, and he was obliged 
to beat a hasty retreat.] 

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will 
succumb in every battle. 

[Chang Yu said: "Knowing the enemy enables you to 
take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on 
the defensive." He adds: "Attack is the secret of defense; 
defense is the planning of an attack." It would be hard to find 
a better epitome of the root-principle of war.] 



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IV, Tactical Dispostftims 



[Ts'ao Kung explains the Chinese meaning of the words 
for the title of this chapter: "marching and countermarching 
on the part of the two armies with a view to discovering each 
other's condition." Tu Mu says: "It is through the dispositions 
of an army that its condition may be discovered. Conceal 
your dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, 
which leads to victory,; show your dispositions, and your 
condition will become patent, which leads to defeat." Wang 
Hsi remarks that the good general can "secure success by 
modifying his tactics to meet those of the enemy."] 

Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put 
themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and 
then waited for an opportunity of defeating the 
enemy. 

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own 
hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is 
provided by the enemy himself. 

[That is, of course, by a mistake on the enemy's part.] 

Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself 
against defeat, 

[Chang Yu says this is done, "By concealing the 
disposition of his troops, covering up his tracks, and taking 
unremitting precautions."] 

but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy. 

Hence the saying: One may KNOW how to conquer 
without being able to DO it. 

Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; 
ability to defeat the enemy means taking the 
offensive. 

[I retain the sense found in a similar passage in ss. 1-3, 
in spite of the fact that the commentators are all against me. 
The meaning they give, "He who cannot conquer takes the 
defensive," is plausible enough.] 



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6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient 

strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength. 

7. The general who is skilled in defense hides in the 

most secret recesses of the earth; 

[Literally, "hides under the ninth earth," which is a 
metaphor indicating the utmost secrecy and concealment, so 
that the enemy may not know his whereabouts."] 

he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the 
topmost heights of heaven. 

[Another metaphor, implying that he falls on his 
adversary like a thunderbolt, against which there is no time 
to prepare. This is the opinion of most of the commentators.] 

Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect 
ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete. 

8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the 

common herd is not the acme of excellence. 

[As Ts'ao Kung remarks, "the thing is to see the plant 
before it has germinated," to foresee the event before the 
action has begun. Li Chfuan alludes to the story of Han Hsin 
who, when about to attack the vastly superior army of Chao, 
which was strongly entrenched in the city of Chfeng-an, said 
to his officers: "Gentlemen, we are going to annihilate the 
enemy, and shall meet again at dinner." The officers hardly 
took his words seriously, and gave a very dubious assent. 
But Han Hsin had already worked out in his mind the details 
of a clever stratagem, whereby, as he foresaw, he was able 
to capture the city and inflict a crushing defeat on his 
adversary."] 

9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and 

conquer and the whole Empire says, "Well done!" 

[True excellence being, as Tu Mu says: "To plan 
secretly, to move surreptitiously, to foil the enemy's 
intentions and balk his schemes, so that at last the day may 
be won without shedding a drop of blood." Sun Tzu reserves 
his approbation for things that "the world's coarse thumb 
And finger fail to plumb."] 



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10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; 

["Autumn" hair" is explained as the fur of a hare, which 
is finest in autumn, when it begins to grow afresh. The 
phrase is a very common one in Chinese writers.] 

to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to 
hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear. 

[Ho Shih gives as real instances of strength, sharp sight 
and quick hearing: Wu Huo, who could lift a tripod weighing 
250 stone; Li Chu, who at a distance of a hundred paces 
could see objects no bigger than a mustard seed; and Shih 
K'uang, a blind musician who could hear the footsteps of a 
mosquito.] 

11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who 
not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. 

[The last half is literally "one who, conquering, excels in 
easy conquering." Mei Yao-chf en says: "He who only sees 
the obvious, wins his battles with difficulty; he who looks 
below the surface of things, wins with ease."] 

12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for 
wisdom nor credit for courage. 

[Tu Mu explains this very well: "Inasmuch as his victories are 
gained over circumstances that have not come to light, the world as large 
knows nothing of them, and he wins no reputation for wisdom; inasmuch 
as the hostile state submits before there has been any bloodshed, he 
receives no credit for courage."] 

13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. 

[Chf en Hao says: "He plans no superfluous marches, he 
devises no futile attacks." The connection of ideas is thus 
explained by Chang Yu: "One who seeks to conquer by 
sheer strength, clever though he may be at winning pitched 
battles, is also liable on occasion to be vanquished; whereas 
he who can look into the future and discern conditions that 
are not yet manifest, will never make a blunder and therefore 
invariably win."] 

Making no mistakes is what establishes the 
certainty of victory, for it means conquering an 
enemy that is already defeated. 



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14. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a 
position which makes defeat impossible, and does 
not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. 

[A "counsel of perfection" as Tu Mu truly observes. 
"Position" need not be confined to the actual ground 
occupied by the troops. It includes all the arrangements and 
preparations which a wise general will make to increase the 
safety of his army.] 

15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only 
seeks battle after the victory has been won, 
whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and 
afterwards looks for victory. 

[Ho Shih thus expounds the paradox: "In warfare, first 
lay plans which will ensure victory, and then lead your army 
to battle; if you will not begin with stratagem but rely on 
brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured."] 

16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, 
and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it 
is in his power to control success. 

17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly, 
Measurement; secondly, Estimation of quantity; 
thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances; 
fifthly, Victory. 

18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; 
Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation 
to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to 
Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances. 

[It is not easy to distinguish the four terms very clearly in 
the Chinese. The first seems to be surveying and 
measurement of the ground, which enable us to form an 
estimate of the enemy's strength, and to make calculations 
based on the data thus obtained; we are thus led to a 
general weighing-up, or comparison of the enemy's chances 
with our own; if the latter turn the scale, then victory ensues. 
The chief difficulty lies in third term, which in the Chinese 
some commentators take as a calculation of NUMBERS, 
thereby making it nearly synonymous with the second term. 



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Perhaps the second term should be thought of as a 
consideration of the enemy's general position or condition, 
while the third term is the estimate of his numerical strength. 
On the other hand, Tu Mu says: "The question of relative 
strength having been settled, we can bring the varied 
resources of cunning into play." Ho Shih seconds this 
interpretation, but weakens it. However, it points to the third 
term as being a calculation of numbers.] 

19. A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a 
pound's weight placed in the scale against a single 
grain. 

[Literally, "a victorious army is like an I (20 oz.) weighed 
against a SHU (1/24 oz.); a routed army is a SHU weighed 
against an I." The point is simply the enormous advantage 
which a disciplined force, flushed with victory, has over one 
demoralized by defeat." Legge, in his note on Mencius, I. 2. 
ix. 2, makes the I to be 24 Chinese ounces, and corrects 
Chu Hsi's statement that it equaled 20 oz. only. But Li 
Chfuan of the Tang dynasty here gives the same figure as 
Chu Hsi.] 

20. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting 
of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms 
deep. 



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V, Energy 



Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same 
principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a 
question of dividing up their numbers. 

[That is, cutting up the army into regiments, companies, 
etc., with subordinate officers in command of each. Tu Mu 
reminds us of Han Hsin's famous reply to the first Han 
Emperor, who once said to him: "How large an army do you 
think I could lead?" "Not more than 100,000 men, your 
Majesty." "And you?" asked the Emperor. "Oh!" he 
answered, "the more the better."] 

Fighting with a large army under your command is 
nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is 
merely a question of instituting signs and signals. 

To ensure that your whole host may withstand the 
brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken - 
this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect. 

[We now come to one of the most interesting parts of 
Sun Tzu's treatise, the discussion of the CHENG and the 
CH'I." As it is by no means easy to grasp the full 
significance of these two terms, or to render them 
consistently by good English equivalents; it may be as well 
to tabulate some of the commentators' remarks on the 
subject before proceeding further. Li Chf uan: "Facing the 
enemy is CHENG, making lateral diversion is CH X I. Chia Lin: 
"In presence of the enemy, your troops should be arrayed in 
normal fashion, but in order to secure victory abnormal 
maneuvers must be employed." Mei Yao-chf en: "CH X I is 
active, CHENG is passive; passivity means waiting for an 
opportunity, activity beings the victory itself." Ho Shih: "We 
must cause the enemy to regard our straightforward attack 
as one that is secretly designed, and vice versa; thus 
CHENG may also be Cl-H, and ChTI may also be CHENG." 
He instances the famous exploit of Han Hsin, who when 
marching ostensibly against Lin-chin (now Chao-i in Shensi), 
suddenly threw a large force across the Yellow River in 
wooden tubs, utterly disconcerting his opponent. [Chfien 



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Han Shu, ch. 3.] Here, we are told, the march on Lin-chin 
was CHENG, and the surprise maneuver was CH'I." Chang 
Yu gives the following summary of opinions on the words: 
"Military writers do not agree with regard to the meaning of 
CH X I and CHENG. Wei Liao Tzu [4th cent. B.C.] says: 'Direct 
warfare favors frontal attacks, indirect warfare attacks from 
the rear.' Ts'ao Kung says: 'Going straight out to join battle 
is a direct operation; appearing on the enemy's rear is an 
indirect maneuver.' Li Wei-kung [6th and 7th cent. A.D.] 
says: 'In war, to march straight ahead is CHENG; turning 
movements, on the other hand, are CH X I.' These writers 
simply regard CHENG as CHENG, and ChTI as CITI; they 
do not note that the two are mutually interchangeable and 
run into each other like the two sides of a circle [see infra, 
ss. 11]. A comment on the "Tang Emperor "Tai Tsung goes 
to the root of the matter: 'A CH'I maneuver may be CHENG, 
if we make the enemy look upon it as CHENG; then our real 
attack will be CH X I, and vice versa. The whole secret lies in 
confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real 
intent.'" To put it perhaps a little more clearly: any attack or 
other operation is CHENG, on which the enemy has had his 
attention fixed; whereas that is CH X I," which takes him by 
surprise or comes from an unexpected quarter. If the enemy 
perceives a movement which is meant to be CH'I," it 
immediately becomes CHENG."] 

That the impact of your army may be like a 
grindstone dashed against an egg - this is effected 
by the science of weak points and strong. 

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for 
joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in 
order to secure victory. 

[Chang Yu says: "Steadily develop indirect tactics, either 
by pounding the enemy's flanks or falling on his rear." A 
brilliant example of "indirect tactics" which decided the 
fortunes of a campaign was Lord Roberts' night march round 
the Peiwar Kotal in the second Afghan war. [1] 

Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible 
as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers 
and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to 



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begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to 
return once more. 

[Tu Yu and Chang Yu understand this of the 
permutations of CI-TI and CHENG." But at present Sun Tzu 
is not speaking of CHENG at all, unless, indeed, we suppose 
with Cheng Yu-hsien that a clause relating to it has fallen out 
of the text. Of course, as has already been pointed out, the 
two are so inextricably interwoven in all military operations, 
that they cannot really be considered apart. Here we simply 
have an expression, in figurative language, of the almost 
infinite resource of a great leader.] 

7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the 

combinations of these five give rise to more 
melodies than can ever be heard. 

8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, 

yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination 
they produce more hues than can ever been seen. 

9 There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, 
acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them 
yield more flavors than can ever be tasted. 

10. In battle, there are not more than two methods of 
attack - the direct and the indirect; yet these two in 
combination give rise to an endless series of 
maneuvers. 

11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in 
turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to 
an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their 
combination? 

12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent 
which will even roll stones along in its course. 

13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop 
of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its 
victim. 

[The Chinese here is tricky and a certain key word in the 
context it is used defies the best efforts of the translator. Tu 
Mu defines this word as "the measurement or estimation of 



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distance." But this meaning does not quite fit the illustrative 
simile in ss. 15. Applying this definition to the falcon, it 
seems to me to denote that instinct of SELF RESTRAINT 
which keeps the bird from swooping on its quarry until the 
right moment, together with the power of judging when the 
right moment has arrived. The analogous quality in soldiers 
is the highly important one of being able to reserve their fire 
until the very instant at which it will be most effective. When 
the "Victory" went into action at Trafalgar at hardly more 
than drifting pace, she was for several minutes exposed to a 
storm of shot and shell before replying with a single gun. 
Nelson coolly waited until he was within close range, when 
the broadside he brought to bear worked fearful havoc on 
the enemy's nearest ships.] 

14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his 
onset, and prompt in his decision. 

[The word "decision" would have reference to the 
measurement of distance mentioned above, letting the 
enemy get near before striking. But I cannot help thinking 
that Sun Tzu meant to use the word in a figurative sense 
comparable to our own idiom "short and sharp." Cf. Wang 
Hsi's note, which after describing the falcon's mode of 
attack, proceeds: "This is just how the 'psychological 
moment' should be seized in war."] 

15. Energy may be likened to the bending of a 
crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger. 

[None of the commentators seem to grasp the real point 
of the simile of energy and the force stored up in the bent 
cross-bow until released by the finger on the trigger.] 

16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be 
seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; 
amid confusion and chaos, your array may be 
without head or tail, yet it will be proof against 
defeat. 

[Mei Yao-chf en says: "The subdivisions of the army 
having been previously fixed, and the various signals agreed 
upon, the separating and joining, the dispersing and 
collecting which will take place in the course of a battle, may 
give the appearance of disorder when no real disorder is 



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possible. Your formation may be without head or tail, your 
dispositions all topsy-turvy, and yet a rout of your forces 
quite out of the question."] 

17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, 
simulated fear postulates courage; simulated 
weakness postulates strength. 

[In order to make the translation intelligible, it is 
necessary to tone down the sharply paradoxical form of the 
original. Ts'ao Kung throws out a hint of the meaning in his 
brief note: "These things all serve to destroy formation and 
conceal one's condition." But Tu Mu is the first to put it quite 
plainly: "If you wish to feign confusion in order to lure the 
enemy on, you must first have perfect discipline; if you wish 
to display timidity in order to entrap the enemy, you must 
have extreme courage; if you wish to parade your weakness 
in order to make the enemy over-confident, you must have 
exceeding strength."] 

18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply 
a question of subdivision; 

[See supra, ss. 1.] 

concealing courage under a show of timidity 
presupposes a fund of latent energy; 

[The commentators strongly understand a certain 
Chinese word here differently than anywhere else in this 
chapter. Thus Tu Mu says: "seeing that we are favorably 
circumstanced and yet make no move, the enemy will 
believe that we are really afraid."] 

masking strength with weakness is to be effected by 
tactical dispositions. 

[Chang Yu relates the following anecdote of Kao Tsu, 
the first Han Emperor: "Wishing to crush the Hsiung-nu, he 
sent out spies to report on their condition. But the Hsiung- 
nu, forewarned, carefully concealed all their able-bodied 
men and well-fed horses, and only allowed infirm soldiers 
and emaciated cattle to be seen. The result was that spies 
one and all recommended the Emperor to deliver his attack. 
Lou Ching alone opposed them, saying: "When two countries 
go to war, they are naturally inclined to make an ostentatious 



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display of their strength. Yet our spies have seen nothing but 
old age and infirmity. This is surely some ruse on the part of 
the enemy, and it would be unwise for us to attack." The 
Emperor, however, disregarding this advice, fell into the trap 
and found himself surrounded at Po-teng."] 

19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the 
move maintains deceitful appearances, according to 
which the enemy will act. 

[Ts'ao Kung's note is "Make a display of weakness and 
want." Tu Mu says: "If our force happens to be superior to 
the enemy's, weakness may be simulated in order to lure 
him on; but if inferior, he must be led to believe that we are 
strong, in order that he may keep off. In fact, all the enemy's 
movements should be determined by the signs that we 
choose to give him." Note the following anecdote of Sun Pin, 
a descendent of Sun Wu: In 341 B.C., the Chfi State being 
at war with Wei, sent T'ien Chi and Sun Pin against the 
general P'ang Chuan, who happened to be a deadly 
personal enemy of the later. Sun Pin said: "The Chfi State 
has a reputation for cowardice, and therefore our adversary 
despises us. Let us turn this circumstance to account." 
Accordingly, when the army had crossed the border into Wei 
territory, he gave orders to show 100,000 fires on the first 
night, 50,000 on the next, and the night after only 20,000. 
P'ang Chuan pursued them hotly, saying to himself: "I knew 
these men of Chfi were cowards: their numbers have already 
fallen away by more than half." In his retreat, Sun Pin came 
to a narrow defile, with he calculated that his pursuers would 
reach after dark. Here he had a tree stripped of its bark, and 
inscribed upon it the words: "Under this tree shall P'ang 
Chuan die." Then, as night began to fall, he placed a strong 
body of archers in ambush near by, with orders to shoot 
directly they saw a light. Later on, P'ang Chuan arrived at 
the spot, and noticing the tree, struck a light in order to read 
what was written on it. His body was immediately riddled by 
a volley of arrows, and his whole army thrown into 
confusion. [The above is Tu Mu's version of the story; the 
SHIH CHI, less dramatically but probably with more 
historical truth, makes P'ang Chuan cut his own throat with 
an exclamation of despair, after the rout of his army.] 



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He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch 
at it. 

20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; 
then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for 
him. 

[With an emendation suggested by Li Ching, this then 
reads, "He lies in wait with the main body of his troops."] 

21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of 
combined energy, and does not require too much 
from individuals. 

[Tu Mu says: "He first of all considers the power of his 
army in the bulk; afterwards he takes individual talent into 
account, and uses each men according to his capabilities. 
He does not demand perfection from the untalented."] 

Hence his ability to pick out the right men and 
utilize combined energy. 

22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men 
become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. 
For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain 
motionless on level ground, and to move when on a 
slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if 
round-shaped, to go rolling down. 

[Ts'au Kung calls this "the use of natural or inherent 
power."] 

23. Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is 
as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a 
mountain thousands of feet in height. So much on 
the subject of energy. 

[The chief lesson of this chapter, in Tu Mu's opinion, is 
the paramount importance in war of rapid evolutions and 
sudden rushes. "Great results," he adds, "can thus be 
achieved with small forces."] 

[1] "Forty-one Years in India," chapter 46. 



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VL Weak Points and Strong 

[Chang Yu attempts to explain the sequence of chapters 
as follows: "Chapter IV, on Tactical Dispositions, treated of 
the offensive and the defensive; chapter V, on Energy, dealt 
with direct and indirect methods. The good general 
acquaints himself first with the theory of attack and defense, 
and then turns his attention to direct and indirect methods. 
He studies the art of varying and combining these two 
methods before proceeding to the subject of weak and 
strong points. For the use of direct or indirect methods 
arises out of attack and defense, and the perception of weak 
and strong points depends again on the above methods. 
Hence the present chapter comes immediately after the 
chapter on Energy."] 

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits 

the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; 
whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to 
battle will arrive exhausted. 

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on 

the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be 
imposed on him. 

[One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own 
terms or fights not at all. [1 ] ] 

3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the 

enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by 
inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the 
enemy to draw near. 

[In the first case, he will entice him with a bait; in the 
second, he will strike at some important point which the 
enemy will have to defend.] 

4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; 

[This passage may be cited as evidence against Mei 
Yao-Ch'en's interpretation of I. ss. 23.] 

if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if 
quietly encamped, he can force him to move. 



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5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to 

defend; march swiftly to places where you are not 
expected. 

6. An army may march great distances without distress, 

if it marches through country where the enemy is 
not. 

[Ts'ao Kung sums up very well: "Emerge from the void 
[q.d. like "a bolt from the blue"], strike at vulnerable points, 
shun places that are defended, attack in unexpected 
quarters."] 

7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you 

only attack places which are undefended. 

[Wang Hsi explains "undefended places" as "weak 
points; that is to say, where the general is lacking in 
capacity, or the soldiers in spirit; where the walls are not 
strong enough, or the precautions not strict enough; where 
relief comes too late, or provisions are too scanty, or the 
defenders are variance amongst themselves."] 

You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only 
hold positions that cannot be attacked. 

[I.e., where there are none of the weak points mentioned 
above. There is rather a nice point involved in the 
interpretation of this later clause. Tu Mu, Chfen Hao, and 
Mei Yao-chf en assume the meaning to be: "In order to make 
your defense quite safe, you must defend EVEN those 
places that are not likely to be attacked;" and Tu Mu adds: 
"How much more, then, those that will be attacked." Taken 
thus, however, the clause balances less well with the 
preceding — always a consideration in the highly antithetical 
style which is natural to the Chinese. Chang Yu, therefore, 
seems to come nearer the mark in saying: "He who is skilled 
in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven 
[see IV. ss. 7], making it impossible for the enemy to guard 
against him. This being so, the places that I shall attack are 
precisely those that the enemy cannot defend He who is 
skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the 
earth, making it impossible for the enemy to estimate his 
whereabouts. This being so, the places that I shall hold are 
precisely those that the enemy cannot attack."] 

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8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose 

opponent does not know what to defend; and he is 
skillful in defense whose opponent does not know 
what to attack. 

[An aphorism which puts the whole art of war in a 
nutshell.] 

9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we 

learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; 

[Literally, "without form or sound," but it is said of course 
with reference to the enemy.] 

and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our 
hands. 

10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if 
you make for the enemy's weak points; you may 
retire and be safe from pursuit if your movements 
are more rapid than those of the enemy. 

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an 
engagement even though he be sheltered behind a 
high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is 
attack some other place that he will be obliged to 
relieve. 

[Tu Mu says: "If the enemy is the invading party, we can 
cut his line of communications and occupy the roads by 
which he will have to return; if we are the invaders, we may 
direct our attack against the sovereign himself." It is clear 
that Sun Tzu, unlike certain generals in the late Boer war, 
was no believer in frontal attacks.] 

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the 
enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our 
encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All 
we need do is to throw something odd and 
unaccountable in his way. 

[This extremely concise expression is intelligibly 
paraphrased by Chia Lin: "even though we have constructed 
neither wall nor ditch." Li Chfuan says: "we puzzle him by 
strange and unusual dispositions;" and Tu Mu finally 

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clinches the meaning by three illustrative anecdotes — one of 
Chu-ko Liang, who when occupying Yang-p'ing and about to 
be attacked by Ssu-ma I, suddenly struck his colors, stopped 
the beating of the drums, and flung open the city gates, 
showing only a few men engaged in sweeping and sprinkling 
the ground. This unexpected proceeding had the intended 
effect; for Ssu-ma I, suspecting an ambush, actually drew off 
his army and retreated. What Sun Tzu is advocating here, 
therefore, is nothing more nor less than the timely use of 
"bluff."] 

13. By discovering the enemy's dispositions and 
remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our 
forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be 
divided. 

[The conclusion is perhaps not very obvious, but Chang 
Yu (after Mei Yao-chf en) rightly explains it thus: "If the 
enemy's dispositions are visible, we can make for him in one 
body; whereas, our own dispositions being kept secret, the 
enemy will be obliged to divide his forces in order to guard 
against attack from every quarter."] 

14. We can form a single united body, while the enemy 
must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a 
whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, 
which means that we shall be many to the enemy's 
few. 

15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force 
with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire 
straits. 

16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made 
known; for then the enemy will have to prepare 
against a possible attack at several different points; 

[Sheridan once explained the reason of General Grant's 
victories by saying that "while his opponents were kept fully 
employed wondering what he was going to do, HE was 
thinking most of what he was going to do himself."] 



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and his forces being thus distributed in many 
directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any 
given point will be proportionately few. 

17. For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will 
weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he 
will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he 
will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, 
he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements 
everywhere, he will everywhere be weak. 

[In Frederick the Great's INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS 
GENERALS we read: "A defensive war is apt to betray us 
into too frequent detachment. Those generals who have had 
but little experience attempt to protect every point, while 
those who are better acquainted with their profession, 
having only the capital object in view, guard against a 
decisive blow, and acquiesce in small misfortunes to avoid 
greater."] 

18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare 
against possible attacks; numerical strength, from 
compelling our adversary to make these 
preparations against us. 

[The highest generalship, in Col. Henderson's words, is 
"to compel the enemy to disperse his army, and then to 
concentrate superior force against each fraction in turn."] 

19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming 
battle, we may concentrate from the greatest 
distances in order to fight. 

[What Sun Tzu evidently has in mind is that nice 
calculation of distances and that masterly employment of 
strategy which enable a general to divide his army for the 
purpose of a long and rapid march, and afterwards to effect 
a junction at precisely the right spot and the right hour in 
order to confront the enemy in overwhelming strength. 
Among many such successful junctions which military history 
records, one of the most dramatic and decisive was the 
appearance of Blucher just at the critical moment on the field 
of Waterloo.] 



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20. But if neither time nor place be known, then the left 
wing will be impotent to succor the right, the right 
equally impotent to succor the left, the van unable 
to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van. 
How much more so if the furthest portions of the 
army are anything under a hundred LI apart, and 
even the nearest are separated by several LI! 

[The Chinese of this last sentence is a little lacking in 
precision, but the mental picture we are required to draw is 
probably that of an army advancing towards a given 
rendezvous in separate columns, each of which has orders 
to be there on a fixed date. If the general allows the various 
detachments to proceed at haphazard, without precise 
instructions as to the time and place of meeting, the enemy 
will be able to annihilate the army in detail. Chang Yu's note 
may be worth quoting here: "If we do not know the place 
where our opponents mean to concentrate or the day on 
which they will join battle, our unity will be forfeited through 
our preparations for defense, and the positions we hold will 
be insecure. Suddenly happening upon a powerful foe, we 
shall be brought to battle in a flurried condition, and no 
mutual support will be possible between wings, vanguard or 
rear, especially if there is any great distance between the 
foremost and hindmost divisions of the army."] 

21. Though according to my estimate the soldiers of 
Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall 
advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I 
say then that victory can be achieved. 

[Alas for these brave words! The long feud between the 
two states ended in 473 B.C. with the total defeat of Wu by 
Kou Chien and its incorporation in Yueh. This was doubtless 
long after Sun Tzu's death. With his present assertion 
compare IV. ss. 4. Chang Yu is the only one to point out the 
seeming discrepancy, which he thus goes on to explain: "In 
the chapter on Tactical Dispositions it is said, 'One may 
KNOW how to conquer without being able to DO it,' whereas 
here we have the statement that 'victory' can be achieved.' 
The explanation is, that in the former chapter, where the 
offensive and defensive are under discussion, it is said that 
if the enemy is fully prepared, one cannot make certain of 



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beating him. But the present passage refers particularly to 
the soldiers of Yueh who, according to Sun Tzu's 
calculations, will be kept in ignorance of the time and place 
of the impending struggle. That is why he says here that 
victory can be achieved."] 

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may 
prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover 
his plans and the likelihood of their success. 

[An alternative reading offered by Chia Lin is: "Know 
beforehand all plans conducive to our success and to the 
enemy's failure." 

23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or 
inactivity. 

[Chang Yu tells us that by noting the joy or anger shown 
by the enemy on being thus disturbed, we shall be able to 
conclude whether his policy is to lie low or the reverse. He 
instances the action of Cho-ku Liang, who sent the scornful 
present of a woman's head-dress to Ssu-ma I, in order to 
goad him out of his Fabian tactics.] 

Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his 
vulnerable spots. 

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, 
so that you may know where strength is 
superabundant and where it is deficient. 

[Cf. IV. ss. 6.] 

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch 
you can attain is to conceal them; 

[The piquancy of the paradox evaporates in translation. 
Concealment is perhaps not so much actual invisibility (see 
supra ss. 9) as "showing no sign" of what you mean to do, of 
the plans that are formed in your brain.] 

conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from 
the prying of the subtlest spies, from the 
machinations of the wisest brains. 



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[Tu Mu explains: "Though the enemy may have clever 
and capable officers, they will not be able to lay any plans 
against us."] 

26. How victory may be produced for them out of the 
enemy's own tactics — that is what the multitude 
cannot comprehend. 

27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but 
what none can see is the strategy out of which 
victory is evolved. 

[I.e., everybody can see superficially how a battle is 
won; what they cannot see is the long series of plans and 
combinations which has preceded the battle.] 

28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one 
victory, but let your methods be regulated by the 
infinite variety of circumstances. 

[As Wang Hsi sagely remarks: "There is but one root- 
principle underlying victory, but the tactics which lead up to it 
are infinite in number." With this compare Col. Henderson: 
"The rules of strategy are few and simple. They may be 
learned in a week. They may be taught by familiar 
illustrations or a dozen diagrams. But such knowledge will 
no more teach a man to lead an army like Napoleon than a 
knowledge of grammar will teach him to write like Gibbon."] 

29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its 
natural course runs away from high places and 
hastens downwards. 

30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to 
strike at what is weak. 

[Like water, taking the line of least resistance.] 

31. Water shapes its course according to the nature of 
the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out 
his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. 

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, 
so in warfare there are no constant conditions. 



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33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his 
opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be 
called a heaven-born captain. 

34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) 
are not always equally predominant; 

[That is, as Wang Hsi says: "they predominate 
alternately."] 

the four seasons make way for each other in turn. 

[Literally, "have no invariable seat."] 

There are short days and long; the moon has its 
periods of waning and waxing. 

[Cf. V. ss. 6. The purport of the passage is simply to 
illustrate the want of fixity in war by the changes constantly 
taking place in Nature. The comparison is not very happy, 
however, because the regularity of the phenomena which 
Sun Tzu mentions is by no means paralleled in war.] 

[1] See Col. Henderson's biography of Stonewall 
Jackson, 1902 ed., vol. II, p. 490. 



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VII Manewe ling 



Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his 
commands from the sovereign. 

Having collected an army and concentrated his 
forces, he must blend and harmonize the different 
elements thereof before pitching his camp. 

["Chang Yu says: "the establishment of harmony and 
confidence between the higher and lower ranks before 
venturing into the field;" and he quotes a saying of Wu Tzu 
(chap. 1 ad init.): "Without harmony in the State, no military 
expedition can be undertaken; without harmony in the army, 
no battle array can be formed." In an historical romance Sun 
Tzu is represented as saying to Wu Yuan: "As a general 
rule, those who are waging war should get rid of all the 
domestic troubles before proceeding to attack the external 
foe."] 

After that, comes tactical maneuvering, than which 
there is nothing more difficult. 

[I have departed slightly from the traditional 
interpretation of Ts'ao Kung, who says: "From the time of 
receiving the sovereign's instructions until our encampment 
over against the enemy, the tactics to be pursued are most 
difficult." It seems to me that the tactics or maneuvers can 
hardly be said to begin until the army has sallied forth and 
encamped, and Chfien Hao's note gives color to this view: 
"For levying, concentrating, harmonizing and entrenching an 
army, there are plenty of old rules which will serve. The real 
difficulty comes when we engage in tactical operations." Tu 
Yu also observes that "the great difficulty is to be 
beforehand with the enemy in seizing favorable position."] 

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in 
turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune 
into gain. 

[This sentence contains one of those highly condensed 
and somewhat enigmatical expressions of which Sun Tzu is 
so fond. This is how it is explained by Ts'ao Kung: "Make it 
appear that you are a long way off, then cover the distance 



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rapidly and arrive on the scene before your opponent." Tu 
Mu says: "Hoodwink the enemy, so that he may be remiss 
and leisurely while you are dashing along with utmost 
speed." Ho Shih gives a slightly different turn: "Although you 
may have difficult ground to traverse and natural obstacles 
to encounter this is a drawback which can be turned into 
actual advantage by celerity of movement." Signal examples 
of this saying are afforded by the two famous passages 
across the Alps — that of Hannibal, which laid Italy at his 
mercy, and that of Napoleon two thousand years later, which 
resulted in the great victory of Marengo.] 

Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after 
enticing the enemy out of the way, and though 
starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal 
before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of 
DEVIATION. 

[Tu Mu cites the famous march of Chao She in 270 B.C. 
to relieve the town of O-yu, which was closely invested by a 
Chun army. The King of Chao first consulted Lien P x o on the 
advisability of attempting a relief, but the latter thought the 
distance too great, and the intervening country too rugged 
and difficult. His Majesty then turned to Chao She, who fully 
admitted the hazardous nature of the march, but finally said: 
"We shall be like two rats fighting in a whole — and the 
pluckier one will win!" So he left the capital with his army, 
but had only gone a distance of 30 LI when he stopped and 
began throwing up entrenchments. For 28 days he continued 
strengthening his fortifications, and took care that spies 
should carry the intelligence to the enemy. The Chun 
general was overjoyed, and attributed his adversary's 
tardiness to the fact that the beleaguered city was in the Han 
State, and thus not actually part of Chao territory. But the 
spies had no sooner departed than Chao She began a 
forced march lasting for two days and one night, and arrive 
on the scene of action with such astonishing rapidity that he 
was able to occupy a commanding position on the "North 
hill" before the enemy had got wind of his movements. A 
crushing defeat followed for the Chun forces, who were 
obliged to raise the siege of O-yu in all haste and retreat 
across the border.] 



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5. Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an 

undisciplined multitude, most dangerous. 

[I adopt the reading of the TUNG TIEN, Cheng Yu-hsien 
and the "TU SHU, since they appear to apply the exact 
nuance required in order to make sense. The commentators 
using the standard text take this line to mean that 
maneuvers may be profitable, or they may be dangerous: it 
all depends on the ability of the general.] 

6. If you set a fully equipped army in march in order to 

snatch an advantage, the chances are that you will 
be too late. On the other hand, to detach a flying 
column for the purpose involves the sacrifice of its 
baggage and stores. 

[Some of the Chinese text is unintelligible to the Chinese 
commentators, who paraphrase the sentence. I submit my 
own rendering without much enthusiasm, being convinced 
that there is some deep-seated corruption in the text. On the 
whole, it is clear that Sun Tzu does not approve of a lengthy 
march being undertaken without supplies. Cf. infra, ss. 11.] 

7. Thus, if you order your men to roll up their buff-coats, 

and make forced marches without halting day or 
night, covering double the usual distance at a 
stretch, 

[The ordinary day's march, according to Tu Mu, was 30 
LI; but on one occasion, when pursuing Liu Pei, Ts'ao Ts'ao 
is said to have covered the incredible distance of 300 _li_ 
within twenty-four hours.] 

doing a hundred LI in order to wrest an advantage, 
the leaders of all your three divisions will fall into 
the hands of the enemy. 

8. The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will 

fall behind, and on this plan only one-tenth of your 
army will reach its destination. 

[The moral is, as Ts'ao Kung and others point out: Don't 
march a hundred LI to gain a tactical advantage, either with 
or without impedimenta. Maneuvers of this description 
should be confined to short distances. Stonewall Jackson 



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said: "The hardships of forced marches are often more 
painful than the dangers of battle." He did not often call upon 
his troops for extraordinary exertions. It was only when he 
intended a surprise, or when a rapid retreat was imperative, 
that he sacrificed everything for speed. [1 ] ] 

9. If you march fifty LI in order to outmaneuver the 

enemy, you will lose the leader of your first division, 
and only half your force will reach the goal. 

[Literally, "the leader of the first division will be TORN 
AWAY."] 

10. If you march thirty LI with the same object, two- 
thirds of your army will arrive. 

[In the T'UNG TIEN is added: "From this we may know 
the difficulty of maneuvering."] 

11. We may take it then that an army without its 
baggage-train is lost; without provisions it is lost; 
without bases of supply it is lost. 

[I think Sun Tzu meant "stores accumulated in depots." 
But Tu Yu says "fodder and the like," Chang Yu says "Goods 
in general," and Wang Hsi says "fuel, salt, foodstuffs, etc."] 

12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are 
acquainted with the designs of our neighbors. 

13. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless 
we are familiar with the face of the country — its 
mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its 
marshes and swamps. 

14. We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to 
account unless we make use of local guides. 

[ss. 12-14 are repeated in chap. XI. ss. 52.] 

15. In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed. 

[In the tactics of Turenne, deception of the enemy, 
especially as to the numerical strength of his troops, took a 
very prominent position. [2] ] 



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16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, 
must be decided by circumstances. 

17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind, 

[The simile is doubly appropriate, because the wind is 
not only swift but, as Mei Yao-chf en points out, "invisible and 
leaves no tracks."] 

your compactness that of the forest. 

[Meng Shih comes nearer to the mark in his note: "When 
slowly marching, order and ranks must be preserved" — so as 
to guard against surprise attacks. But natural forest do not 
grow in rows, whereas they do generally possess the quality 
of density or compactness.] 

18. In raiding and plundering be like fire, 

[Cf. SHIH CHING, IV. 3. iv. 6: "Fierce as a blazing fire 
which no man can check."] 

is immovability like a mountain. 

[That is, when holding a position from which the enemy 
is trying to dislodge you, or perhaps, as Tu Yu says, when 
he is trying to entice you into a trap.] 

19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, 
and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. 

[Tu Yu quotes a saying of T'ai Kung which has passed 
into a proverb: "You cannot shut your ears to the thunder or 
your eyes to the lighting — so rapid are they." Likewise, an 
attack should be made so quickly that it cannot be parried.] 

20. When you plunder a countryside, let the spoil be 
divided amongst your men; 

[Sun Tzu wishes to lessen the abuses of indiscriminate 
plundering by insisting that all booty shall be thrown into a 
common stock, which may afterwards be fairly divided 
amongst all.] 

when you capture new territory, cut it up into 
allotments for the benefit of the soldiery. 

[Chfen Hao says "quarter your soldiers on the land, and 
let them sow and plant it." It is by acting on this principle, 



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and harvesting the lands they invaded, that the Chinese 
have succeeded in carrying out some of their most 
memorable and triumphant expeditions, such as that of Pan 
Chfao who penetrated to the Caspian, and in more recent 
years, those of Fu-k x ang-an and Tso Tsung-f ang.] 

21. Ponder and deliberate before you make a move. 

[Chang Yu quotes Wei Liao Tzu as saying that we must 
not break camp until we have gained the resisting power of 
the enemy and the cleverness of the opposing general. Cf. 
the "seven comparisons" in I. ss. 13.] 

22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of 
deviation. 

[See supra, SS. 3, 4.] 

Such is the art of maneuvering. 

[With these words, the chapter would naturally come to 
an end. But there now follows a long appendix in the shape 
of an extract from an earlier book on War, now lost, but 
apparently extant at the time when Sun Tzu wrote. The style 
of this fragment is not noticeable different from that of Sun 
Tzu himself, but no commentator raises a doubt as to its 
genuineness.] 

23. The Book of Army Management says: 

[It is perhaps significant that none of the earlier 
commentators give us any information about this work. Mei 
Yao-Chfen calls it "an ancient military classic," and Wang 
Hsi, "an old book on war." Considering the enormous amount 
of fighting that had gone on for centuries before Sun Tzu's 
time between the various kingdoms and principalities of 
China, it is not in itself improbable that a collection of 
military maxims should have been made and written down at 
some earlier period.] 

On the field of battle, 

[Implied, though not actually in the Chinese.] 

the spoken word does not carry far enough: hence 
the institution of gongs and drums. Nor can ordinary 



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objects be seen clearly enough: hence the 
institution of banners and flags. 

24. Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means 
whereby the ears and eyes of the host may be 
focused on one particular point. 

[Chang Yu says: "If sight and hearing converge 
simultaneously on the same object, the evolutions of as 
many as a million soldiers will be like those of a single 
man."!] 

25. The host thus forming a single united body, is it 
impossible either for the brave to advance alone, or 
for the cowardly to retreat alone. 

[Chuang Yu quotes a saying: "Equally guilty are those 
who advance against orders and those who retreat against 
orders." Tu Mu tells a story in this connection of Wu Chfi, 
when he was fighting against the Chun State. Before the 
battle had begun, one of his soldiers, a man of matchless 
daring, sallied forth by himself, captured two heads from the 
enemy, and returned to camp. Wu Chfi had the man instantly 
executed, whereupon an officer ventured to remonstrate, 
saying: "This man was a good soldier, and ought not to have 
been beheaded." Wu Chfi replied: "I fully believe he was a 
good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he acted 
without orders."] 

This is the art of handling large masses of men. 

26. In night-fighting, then, make much use of signal- 
fires and drums, and in fighting by day, of flags and 
banners, as a means of influencing the ears and 
eyes of your army. 

[Chf en Hao alludes to Li Kuang-pi's night ride to Ho- 
yang at the head of 500 mounted men; they made such an 
imposing display with torches, that though the rebel leader 
Shih Ssu-ming had a large army, he did not dare to dispute 
their passage.] 

27. A whole army may be robbed of its spirit; 

["In war," says Chang Yu, "if a spirit of anger can be 
made to pervade all ranks of an army at one and the same 



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time, its onset will be irresistible. Now the spirit of the 
enemy's soldiers will be keenest when they have newly 
arrived on the scene, and it is therefore our cue not to fight 
at once, but to wait until their ardor and enthusiasm have 
worn off, and then strike. It is in this way that they may be 
robbed of their keen spirit." Li Chfuan and others tell an 
anecdote (to be found in the TSO CHUAN, year 10, ss. 1) of 
Ts'ao Kuei, a protege of Duke Chuang of Lu. The latter State 
was attacked by Chfi, and the duke was about to join battle 
at Chf ang-cho, after the first roll of the enemy's drums, when 
Ts'ao said: "Not just yet." Only after their drums had beaten 
for the third time, did he give the word for attack. Then they 
fought, and the men of Chfi were utterly defeated. 
Questioned afterwards by the Duke as to the meaning of his 
delay, Ts'ao Kuei replied: "In battle, a courageous spirit is 
everything. Now the first roll of the drum tends to create this 
spirit, but with the second it is already on the wane, and 
after the third it is gone altogether. I attacked when their 
spirit was gone and ours was at its height. Hence our 
victory." Wu Tzu (chap. 4) puts "spirit" first among the "four 
important influences" in war, and continues: "The value of a 
whole army — a mighty host of a million men — is dependent 
on one man alone: such is the influence of spirit!"] 

a commander-in-chief may be robbed of his presence 
of mind. 

[Chang Yu says: "Presence of mind is the general's most 
important asset. It is the quality which enables him to 
discipline disorder and to inspire courage into the panic- 
stricken." The great general Li Ching (A.D. 571-649) has a 
saying: "Attacking does not merely consist in assaulting 
walled cities or striking at an army in battle array; it must 
include the art of assailing the enemy's mental equilibrium."] 

28. Now a solider's spirit is keenest in the morning; 

[Always provided, I suppose, that he has had breakfast. 
At the battle of the Trebia, the Romans were foolishly 
allowed to fight fasting, whereas Hannibal's men had 
breakfasted at their leisure. See Livy, XXI, liv. 8, Iv. 1 and 8.] 

by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, 
his mind is bent only on returning to camp. 



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29. A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its 
spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and 
inclined to return. This is the art of studying moods. 

30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of 
disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy: — this is the 
art of retaining self-possession. 

31. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from 
it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and 
struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is 
famished: — this is the art of husbanding one's 
strength. 

32. To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose 
banners are in perfect order, to refrain from 
attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident 
array: this is the art of studying circumstances. 

33. It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against 
the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes 
downhill. 

34. Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not 
attack soldiers whose temper is keen. 

35. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. 

[Li Crf uan and Tu Mu, with extraordinary inability to see 
a metaphor, take these words quite literally of food and drink 
that have been poisoned by the enemy. Chfen Hao and 
Chang Yu carefully point out that the saying has a wider 
application.] 

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. 

[The commentators explain this rather singular piece of 
advice by saying that a man whose heart is set on returning 
home will fight to the death against any attempt to bar his 
way, and is therefore too dangerous an opponent to be 
tackled. Chang Yu quotes the words of Han Hsin: "Invincible 
is the soldier who hath his desire and returneth homewards." 
A marvelous tale is told of Ts'ao Ts'ao's courage and 
resource in ch. 1 of the SAN KUO CHI: In 198 A.D., he was 
besieging Chang Hsiu in Jang, when Liu Piao sent 

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reinforcements with a view to cutting off Ts'ao's retreat. The 
latter was obligbed to draw off his troops, only to find himself 
hemmed in between two enemies, who were guarding each 
outlet of a narrow pass in which he had engaged himself. In 
this desperate plight Ts'ao waited until nightfall, when he 
bored a tunnel into the mountain side and laid an ambush in 
it. As soon as the whole army had passed by, the hidden 
troops fell on his rear, while Ts'ao himself turned and met 
his pursuers in front, so that they were thrown into confusion 
and annihilated. Ts'ao Ts'ao said afterwards: "The brigands 
tried to check my army in its retreat and brought me to battle 
in a desperate position: hence I knew how to overcome 
them."] 

36. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. 

[This does not mean that the enemy is to be allowed to 
escape. The object, as Tu Mu puts it, is "to make him believe 
that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting 
with the courage of despair." Tu Mu adds pleasantly: "After 
that, you may crush him."] 

Do not press a desperate foe too hard. 

[Chfen Hao quotes the saying: "Birds and beasts when 
brought to bay will use their claws and teeth." Chang Yu 
says: "If your adversary has burned his boats and destroyed 
his cooking-pots, and is ready to stake all on the issue of a 
battle, he must not be pushed to extremities." Ho Shih 
illustrates the meaning by a story taken from the life of Yen- 
chfing. That general, together with his colleague Tu Chung- 
wei was surrounded by a vastly superior army of Khitans in 
the year 945 A.D. The country was bare and desert-like, and 
the little Chinese force was soon in dire straits for want of 
water. The wells they bored ran dry, and the men were 
reduced to squeezing lumps of mud and sucking out the 
moisture. Their ranks thinned rapidly, until at last Fu Yen- 
chfing exclaimed: "We are desperate men. Far better to die 
for our country than to go with fettered hands into captivity!" 
A strong gale happened to be blowing from the northeast 
and darkening the air with dense clouds of sandy dust. To 
Chung-wei was for waiting until this had abated before 
deciding on a final attack; but luckily another officer, Li 
Shou-cheng by name, was quicker to see an opportunity, 
and said: "They are many and we are few, but in the midst of 

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this sandstorm our numbers will not be discernible; victory 
will go to the strenuous fighter, and the wind will be our best 
ally." Accordingly, Fu Yen-chung made a sudden and wholly 
unexpected onslaught with his cavalry, routed the barbarians 
and succeeded in breaking through to safety.] 

37. Such is the art of warfare. 

[1] See Col. Henderson, op. cit. vol. I. p. 426. 

[2] For a number of maxims on this head, see "Marshal 
Turenne" (Longmans, 1907), p. 29. 



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VIIL Variations in Tactics 

[The heading means literally "The Nine Variations," but 
as Sun Tzu does not appear to enumerate these, and as, 
indeed, he has already told us (V SS. 6-11) that such 
deflections from the ordinary course are practically 
innumerable, we have little option but to follow Wang Hsi, 
who says that "Nine" stands for an indefinitely large number. 
"All it means is that in warfare we ought to very our tactics to 
the utmost degreel do not know what Ts'ao Kung makes 
these Nine Variations out to be, but it has been suggested 
that they are connected with the Nine Situations" - of chapt. 
XI. This is the view adopted by Chang Yu. The only other 
alternative is to suppose that something has been lost — a 
supposition to which the unusual shortness of the chapter 
lends some weight.] 

1. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his 

commands from the sovereign, collects his army and 
concentrates his forces. 

[Repeated from VII. ss. 1 , where it is certainly more in 
place. It may have been interpolated here merely in order to 
supply a beginning to the chapter.] 

2. When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country 

where high roads intersect, join hands with your 
allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated 
positions. 

[The last situation is not one of the Nine Situations as 
given in the beginning of chap. XI, but occurs later on (ibid, 
ss. 43. q.v.). Chang Yu defines this situation as being 
situated across the frontier, in hostile territory. Li Chfuan 
says it is "country in which there are no springs or wells, 
flocks or herds, vegetables or firewood;" Chia Lin, "one of 
gorges, chasms and precipices, without a road by which to 
advance."] 

In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to 
stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight. 

3. There are roads which must not be followed, 



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["Especially those leading through narrow defiles," says 
Li Chfuan, "where an ambush is to be feared."] 

armies which must be not attacked, 

[More correctly, perhaps, "there are times when an army 
must not be attacked." Chf en Hao says: "When you see your 
way to obtain a rival advantage, but are powerless to inflict a 
real defeat, refrain from attacking, for fear of overtaxing your 
men's strength."] 

towns which must not be besieged, 

[Cf. III. ss. 4 Ts'ao Kung gives an interesting illustration 
from his own experience. When invading the territory of Hsu- 
chou, he ignored the city of Hua-pi, which lay directly in his 
path, and pressed on into the heart of the country. This 
excellent strategy was rewarded by the subsequent capture 
of no fewer than fourteen important district cities. Chang Yu 
says: "No town should be attacked which, if taken, cannot be 
held, or if left alone, will not cause any trouble." 

Hsun Ying, when urged to attack Pi-yang, replied: "The 
city is small and well-fortified; even if I succeed intaking it, it 
will be no great feat of arms; whereas if I fail, I shall make 
myself a laughing-stock." In the seventeenth century, sieges 
still formed a large proportion of war. It was Turenne who 
directed attention to the importance of marches, 
countermarches and maneuvers. He said: "It is a great 
mistake to waste men in taking a town when the same 
expenditure of soldiers will gain a province." [1] ] 

positions which must not be contested, commands 
of the sovereign which must not be obeyed. 

[This is a hard saying for the Chinese, with their 
reverence for authority, and Wei Liao Tzu (quoted by Tu Mu) 
is moved to exclaim: "Weapons are baleful instruments, 
strife is antagonistic to virtue, a military commander is the 
negation of civil order!" The unpalatable fact remains, 
however, that even Imperial wishes must be subordinated to 
military necessity.] 

The general who thoroughly understands the 
advantages that accompany variation of tactics 
knows how to handle his troops. 



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The general who does not understand these, may be 
well acquainted with the configuration of the 
country, yet he will not be able to turn his 
knowledge to practical account. 

[Literally, "get the advantage of the ground," which 
means not only securing good positions, but availing oneself 
of natural advantages in every possible way. Chang Yu says: 
"Every kind of ground is characterized by certain natural 
features, and also gives scope for a certain variability of 
plan. How it is possible to turn these natural features to 
account unless topographical knowledge is supplemented by 
versatility of mind?"] 

So, the student of war who is unversed in the art of 
war of varying his plans, even though he be 
acquainted with the Five Advantages, will fail to 
make the best use of his men. 

[Chia Lin tells us that these imply five obvious and 
generally advantageous lines of action, namely: "if a certain 
road is short, it must be followed; if an army is isolated, it 
must be attacked; if a town is in a parlous condition, it must 
be besieged; if a position can be stormed, it must be 
attempted; and if consistent with military operations, the 
ruler's commands must be obeyed." But there are 
circumstances which sometimes forbid a general to use 
these advantages. For instance, "a certain road may be the 
shortest way for him, but if he knows that it abounds in 
natural obstacles, or that the enemy has laid an ambush on 
it, he will not follow that road. A hostile force may be open to 
attack, but if he knows that it is hard-pressed and likely to 
fight with desperation, he will refrain from striking," and so 
on.] 

Hence in the wise leader's plans, considerations of 
advantage and of disadvantage will be blended 
together. 

["Whether in an advantageous position or a 
disadvantageous one," says Ts'ao Kung, "the opposite state 
should be always present to your mind."] 



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8. If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this 

way, we may succeed in accomplishing the essential 
part of our schemes. 

[Tu Mu says: "If we wish to wrest an advantage from the 
enemy, we must not fix our minds on that alone, but allow for 
the possibility of the enemy also doing some harm to us, and 
let this enter as a factor into our calculations."] 

9. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we 

are always ready to seize an advantage, we may 
extricate ourselves from misfortune. 

[Tu Mu says: "If I wish to extricate myself from a 
dangerous position, I must consider not only the enemy's 
ability to injure me, but also my own ability to gain an 
advantage over the enemy. If in my counsels these two 
considerations are properly blended, I shall succeed in 
liberating myselfFor instance; if I am surrounded by the 
enemy and only think of effecting an escape, the 
nervelessness of my policy will incite my adversary to 
pursue and crush me; it would be far better to encourage my 
men to deliver a bold counter-attack, and use the advantage 
thus gained to free myself from the enemy's toils." See the 
story of Ts'ao Ts'ao, VII. ss. 35, note.] 

10. Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on 
them; 

[Chia Lin enumerates several ways of inflicting this 
injury, some of which would only occur to the Oriental 
mind: — "Entice away the enemy's best and wisest men, so 
that he may be left without counselors. Introduce traitors into 
his country, that the government policy may be rendered 
futile. Foment intrigue and deceit, and thus sow dissension 
between the ruler and his ministers. By means of every artful 
contrivance, cause deterioration amongst his men and waste 
of his treasure. Corrupt his morals by insidious gifts leading 
him into excess. Disturb and unsettle his mind by presenting 
him with lovely women." Chang Yu (after Wang Hsi) makes a 
different interpretation of Sun Tzu here: "Get the enemy into 
a position where he must suffer injury, and he will submit of 
his own accord."] 

and make trouble for them, 



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[Tu Mu, in this phrase, in his interpretation indicates that 
trouble should be make for the enemy affecting their 
"possessions," or, as we might say, "assets," which he 
considers to be "a large army, a rich exchequer, harmony 
amongst the soldiers, punctual fulfillment of commands." 
These give us a whip-hand over the enemy.] 

and keep them constantly engaged; 

[Literally, "make servants of them." Tu Yu says "prevent 
the from having any rest."] 

hold out specious allurements, and make them rush 
to any given point. 

[Meng Shih's note contains an excellent example of the 
idiomatic use of: "cause them to forget PIEN (the reasons for 
acting otherwise than on their first impulse), and hasten in 
our direction."] 

11. The art of war teaches us to rely not on the 
likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own 
readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his 
not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have 
made our position unassailable. 

12. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a 
general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to 
destruction; 

["Bravery without forethought," as Ts'ao Kung analyzes 
it, which causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a 
mad bull. Such an opponent, says Chang Yu, "must not be 
encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an 
ambush and slain." Cf. Wu Tzu, chap. IV. ad init.: "In 
estimating the character of a general, men are wont to pay 
exclusive attention to his courage, forgetting that courage is 
only one out of many qualities which a general should 
possess. The merely brave man is prone to fight recklessly; 
and he who fights recklessly, without any perception of what 
is expedient, must be condemned." Ssu-ma Fa, too, make 
the incisive remark: "Simply going to one's death does not 
bring about victory."] 

(2) cowardice, which leads to capture; 



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[Ts'ao Kung defines the Chinese word translated here 
as "cowardice" as being of the man "whom timidity prevents 
from advancing to seize an advantage," and Wang Hsi adds 
"who is quick to flee at the sight of danger." Meng Shih gives 
the closer paraphrase "he who is bent on returning alive," 
this is, the man who will never take a risk. But, as Sun Tzu 
knew, nothing is to be achieved in war unless you are willing 
to take risks. "Tai Kung said: "He who lets an advantage slip 
will subsequently bring upon himself real disaster." In 404 
A.D., Liu Yu pursued the rebel Huan Hsuan up the Yangtsze 
and fought a naval battle with him at the island of Chfeng- 
hung. The loyal troops numbered only a few thousands, 
while their opponents were in great force. But Huan Hsuan, 
fearing the fate which was in store for him should be be 
overcome, had a light boat made fast to the side of his war- 
junk, so that he might escape, if necessary, at a moment's 
notice. The natural result was that the fighting spirit of his 
soldiers was utterly quenched, and when the loyalists made 
an attack from windward with fireships, all striving with the 
utmost ardor to be first in the fray, Huan Hsuan's forces were 
routed, had to burn all their baggage and fled for two days 
and nights without stopping. Chang Yu tells a somewhat 
similar story of Chao Ying-chfi, a general of the Chin State 
who during a battle with the army of Chfu in 597 B.C. had a 
boat kept in readiness for him on the river, wishing in case of 
defeat to be the first to get across.] 

(3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by 
insults; 

[Tu Mu tells us that Yao Hsing, when opposed in 357 
A.D. by Huang Mei, Teng Chfiang and others shut himself up 
behind his walls and refused to fight. Teng Chfiang said: 
"Our adversary is of a choleric temper and easily provoked; 
let us make constant sallies and break down his walls, then 
he will grow angry and come out. Once we can bring his 
force to battle, it is doomed to be our prey." This plan was 
acted upon, Yao Hsiang came out to fight, was lured as far 
as San-yuan by the enemy's pretended flight, and finally 
attacked and slain.] 

(4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; 



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[This need not be taken to mean that a sense of honor is 
really a defect in a general. What Sun Tzu condemns is 
rather an exaggerated sensitiveness to slanderous reports, 
the thin-skinned man who is stung by opprobrium, however 
undeserved. Mei Yao-chfen truly observes, though 
somewhat paradoxically: "The seek after glory should be 
careless of public opinion."] 

(5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to 
worry and trouble. 

[Here again, Sun Tzu does not mean that the general is 
to be careless of the welfare of his troops. All he wishes to 
emphasize is the danger of sacrificing any important military 
advantage to the immediate comfort of his men. This is a 
shortsighted policy, because in the long run the troops will 
suffer more from the defeat, or, at best, the prolongation of 
the war, which will be the consequence. A mistaken feeling 
of pity will often induce a general to relieve a beleaguered 
city, or to reinforce a hard-pressed detachment, contrary to 
his military instincts. It is now generally admitted that our 
repeated efforts to relieve Ladysmith in the South African 
War were so many strategical blunders which defeated their 
own purpose. And in the end, relief came through the very 
man who started out with the distinct resolve no longer to 
subordinate the interests of the whole to sentiment in favor 
of a part. An old soldier of one of our generals who failed 
most conspicuously in this war, tried once, I remember, to 
defend him to me on the ground that he was always "so 
good to his men." By this plea, had he but known it, he was 
only condemning him out of Sun Tzu's mouth.] 

13. These are the five besetting sins of a general, 
ruinous to the conduct of war. 

14. When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, 
the cause will surely be found among these five 
dangerous faults. Let them be a subject of 
meditation. 

[1] "Marshal Turenne," p. 50. 



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IX. The Army on the March 

[The contents of this interesting chapter are better 
indicated in ss. 1 than by this heading.] 

1. Sun Tzu said: We come now to the question of 

encamping the army, and observing signs of the 
enemy. Pass quickly over mountains, and keep in the 
neighborhood of valleys. 

[The idea is, not to linger among barren uplands, but to 
keep close to supplies of water and grass. Cf. Wu Tzu, ch. 3: 
"Abide not in natural ovens," i.e. "the openings of valleys." 
Chang Yu tells the following anecdote: Wu-tu Chfiang was a 
robber captain in the time of the Later Han, and Ma Yuan 
was sent to exterminate his gang. Chfiang having found a 
refuge in the hills, Ma Yuan made no attempt to force a 
battle, but seized all the favorable positions commanding 
supplies of water and forage. Chfiang was soon in such a 
desperate plight for want of provisions that he was forced to 
make a total surrender. He did not know the advantage of 
keeping in the neighborhood of valleys."] 

2. Camp in high places, 

[Not on high hills, but on knolls or hillocks elevated 
above the surrounding country.] 

facing the sun. 

[Tu Mu takes this to mean "facing south," and Chf en 
Hao "facing east." Cf. infra, SS. 11, 13.] 

Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for 
mountain warfare. 

3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from 

it. 

["In order to tempt the enemy to cross after you," 
according to Ts'ao Kung, and also, says Chang Yu, "in order 
not to be impeded in your evolutions." The T'UNG TIEN 
reads, "If THE ENEMY crosses a river," etc. But in view of 
the next sentence, this is almost certainly an interpolation.] 



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4. When an invading force crosses a river in its onward 

march, do not advance to meet it in mid-stream. It 
will be best to let half the army get across, and then 
deliver your attack. 

[Li Chfuan alludes to the great victory won by Han Hsin 
over Lung Chu at the Wei River. Turning to the CI-TIEN HAN 
SHU, ch. 34, fol. 6 verso, we find the battle described as 
follows: "The two armies were drawn up on opposite sides of 
the river. In the night, Han Hsin ordered his men to take 
some ten thousand sacks filled with sand and construct a 
dam higher up. Then, leading half his army across, he 
attacked Lung Chu; but after a time, pretending to have 
failed in his attempt, he hastily withdrew to the other bank. 
Lung Chu was much elated by this unlooked-for success, 
and exclaiming: "I felt sure that Han Hsin was really a 
coward!" he pursued him and began crossing the river in his 
turn. Han Hsin now sent a party to cut open the sandbags, 
thus releasing a great volume of water, which swept down 
and prevented the greater portion of Lung Chu's army from 
getting across. He then turned upon the force which had 
been cut off, and annihilated it, Lung Chu himself being 
amongst the slain. The rest of the army, on the further bank, 
also scattered and fled in all directions.] 

5. If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet 

the invader near a river which he has to cross. 

[For fear of preventing his crossing.] 

6. Moor your craft higher up than the enemy, and facing 

the sun. 

[See supra, ss. 2. The repetition of these words in 
connection with water is very awkward. Chang Yu has the 
note: "Said either of troops marshaled on the river-bank, or 
of boats anchored in the stream itself; in either case it is 
essential to be higher than the enemy and facing the sun." 
The other commentators are not at all explicit.] 

Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy. 

[Tu Mu says: "As water flows downwards, we must not 
pitch our camp on the lower reaches of a river, for fear the 
enemy should open the sluices and sweep us away in a 



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flood. Chu-ko Wu-hou has remarked that 'in river warfare we 
must not advance against the stream,' which is as much as 
to say that our fleet must not be anchored below that of the 
enemy, for then they would be able to take advantage of the 
current and make short work of us." There is also the 
danger, noted by other commentators, that the enemy may 
throw poison on the water to be carried down to us.] 

So much for river warfare. 

7. In crossing salt-marshes, your sole concern should 

be to get over them quickly, without any delay. 

[Because of the lack of fresh water, the poor quality of 
the herbage, and last but not least, because they are low, 
flat, and exposed to attack.] 

8. If forced to fight in a salt-marsh, you should have 

water and grass near you, and get your back to a 
clump of trees. 

[Li Chfuan remarks that the ground is less likely to be 
treacherous where there are trees, while Tu Mu says that 
they will serve to protect the rear.] 

So much for operations in salt-marches. 

9. In dry, level country, take up an easily accessible 

position with rising ground to your right and on your 
rear, 

[Tu Mu quotes T'ai Kung as saying: "An army should 
have a stream or a marsh on its left, and a hill or tumulus on 
its right."] 

so that the danger may be in front, and safety lie 
behind. So much for campaigning in flat country. 

10. These are the four useful branches of military 
knowledge 

[Those, namely, concerned with (1) mountains, (2) 
rivers, (3) marshes, and (4) plains. Compare Napoleon's 
"Military Maxims," no. 1 .] 

which enabled the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four 
several sovereigns. 



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[Regarding the "Yellow Emperor": Mei Yao-chf en asks, 
with some plausibility, whether there is an error in the text as 
nothing is known of Huang Ti having conquered four other 
Emperors. The SHIH CHI (ch. 1 ad init.) speaks only of his 
victories over Yen Ti and Chfih Yu. In the LIU T x AO it is 
mentioned that he "fought seventy battles and pacified the 
Empire." Ts'ao Kung's explanation is, that the Yellow 
Emperor was the first to institute the feudal system of 
vassals princes, each of whom (to the number of four) 
originally bore the title of Emperor. Li Chfuan tells us that 
the art of war originated under Huang Ti, who received it 
from his Minister Feng Hou.] 

11. All armies prefer high ground to low. 

["High Ground," says Mei Yao-chfen, "is not only more 
agreement and salubrious, but more convenient from a 
military point of view; low ground is not only damp and 
unhealthy, but also disadvantageous for fighting."] 

and sunny places to dark. 

12. If you are careful of your men, 

[Ts'ao Kung says: "Make for fresh water and pasture, 
where you can turn out your animals to graze."] 

and camp on hard ground, the army will be free from 
disease of every kind, 

[Chang Yu says: "The dryness of the climate will prevent 
the outbreak of illness."] 

and this will spell victory. 

13. When you come to a hill or a bank, occupy the sunny 
side, with the slope on your right rear. Thus you will 
at once act for the benefit of your soldiers and 
utilize the natural advantages of the ground. 

14. When, in consequence of heavy rains up-country, a 
river which you wish to ford is swollen and flecked 
with foam, you must wait until it subsides. 

15. Country in which there are precipitous cliffs with 
torrents running between, deep natural hollows, 



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[The latter defined as "places enclosed on every side by 
steep banks, with pools of water at the bottom.] 

confined places, 

[Defined as "natural pens or prisons" or "places 
surrounded by precipices on three sides — easy to get into, 
but hard to get out of."] 

tangled thickets, 

[Defined as "places covered with such dense 
undergrowth that spears cannot be used."] 

quagmires 

[Defined as "low-lying places, so heavy with mud as to 
be impassable for chariots and horsemen."] 

and crevasses, 

[Defined by Mei Yao-chfen as "a narrow difficult way 
between beetling cliffs." Tu Mu's note is "ground covered 
with trees and rocks, and intersected by numerous ravines 
and pitfalls." This is very vague, but Chia Lin explains it 
clearly enough as a defile or narrow pass, and Chang Yu 
takes much the same view. On the whole, the weight of the 
commentators certainly inclines to the rendering "defile." But 
the ordinary meaning of the Chinese in one place is "a crack 
or fissure" and the fact that the meaning of the Chinese 
elsewhere in the sentence indicates something in the nature 
of a defile, make me think that Sun Tzu is here speaking of 
crevasses.] 

should be left with all possible speed and not 
approached. 

16. While we keep away from such places, we should 
get the enemy to approach them; while we face 
them, we should let the enemy have them on his 
rear. 

17. If in the neighborhood of your camp there should be 
any hilly country, ponds surrounded by aquatic 
grass, hollow basins filled with reeds, or woods with 
thick undergrowth, they must be carefully routed out 



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and searched; for these are places where men in 
ambush or insidious spies are likely to be lurking. 

[Chang Yu has the note: "We must also be on our guard 
against traitors who may lie in close covert, secretly spying 
out our weaknesses and overhearing our instructions."] 

18. When the enemy is close at hand and remains quiet, 
he is relying on the natural strength of his position. 

[Here begin Sun Tzu's remarks on the reading of signs, 
much of which is so good that it could almost be included in 
a modern manual like Gen. Baden-Powell's "Aids to 
Scouting."] 

19. When he keeps aloof and tries to provoke a battle, 
he is anxious for the other side to advance. 

[Probably because we are in a strong position from 
which he wishes to dislodge us. "If he came close up to us, 
says Tu Mu, "and tried to force a battle, he would seem to 
despise us, and there would be less probability of our 
responding to the challenge."] 

20. If his place of encampment is easy of access, he is 
tendering a bait. 

21. Movement amongst the trees of a forest shows that 
the enemy is advancing. 

[Ts'ao Kung explains this as "felling trees to clear a 
passage," and Chang Yu says: "Every man sends out scouts 
to climb high places and observe the enemy. If a scout sees 
that the trees of a forest are moving and shaking, he may 
know that they are being cut down to clear a passage for the 
enemy's march."] 

The appearance of a number of screens in the midst 
of thick grass means that the enemy wants to make 
us suspicious. 

[Tu Yu's explanation, borrowed from Ts'ao Kung's, is as 
follows: "The presence of a number of screens or sheds in 
the midst of thick vegetation is a sure sign that the enemy 
has fled and, fearing pursuit, has constructed these hiding- 
places in order to make us suspect an ambush." It appears 



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that these "screens" were hastily knotted together out of any 
long grass which the retreating enemy happened to come 
across.] 

22. The rising of birds in theirflight is the sign of an 
ambuscade. 

[Chang Yu's explanation is doubtless right: "When birds 
that are flying along in a straight line suddenly shoot 
upwards, it means that soldiers are in ambush at the spot 
beneath."] 

Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is 
coming. 

23. When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the 
sign of chariots advancing; when the dust is low, but 
spread over a wide area, it betokens the approach of 
infantry. 

["High and sharp," or rising to a peak, is of course 
somewhat exaggerated as applied to dust. The 
commentators explain the phenomenon by saying that 
horses and chariots, being heavier than men, raise more 
dust, and also follow one another in the same wheel-track, 
whereas foot-soldiers would be marching in ranks, many 
abreast. According to Chang Yu, "every army on the march 
must have scouts some way in advance, who on sighting 
dust raised by the enemy, will gallop back and report it to the 
commander-in-chief." Cf. Gen. Baden-Powell: "As you move 
along, say, in a hostile country, your eyes should be looking 
afar for the enemy or any signs of him: figures, dust rising, 
birds getting up, glitter of arms, etc." [1] ] 

When it branches out in different directions, it 
shows that parties have been sent to collect 
firewood. A few clouds of dust moving to and fro 
signify that the army is encamping. 

[Chang Yu says: "In apportioning the defenses for a 
cantonment, light horse will be sent out to survey the 
position and ascertain the weak and strong points all along 
its circumference. Hence the small quantity of dust and its 
motion."] 



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24. Humble words and increased preparations are signs 
that the enemy is about to advance. 

["As though they stood in great fear of us," says Tu Mu. 
"Their object is to make us contemptuous and careless, after 
which they will attack us." Chang Yu alludes to the story of 
"Tien Tan of the Chf i-mo against the Yen forces, led by Chfi 
Chieh. In ch. 82 of the SHIH CHI we read: 'Tien Tan openly 
said: 'My only fear is that the Yen army may cut off the noses 
of their Chfi prisoners and place them in the front rank to 
fight against us; that would be the undoing of our city.' The 
other side being informed of this speech, at once acted on 
the suggestion; but those within the city were enraged at 
seeing their fellow-countrymen thus mutilated, and fearing 
only lest they should fall into the enemy's hands, were 
nerved to defend themselves more obstinately than ever. 
Once again Tien Tan sent back converted spies who 
reported these words to the enemy: "What I dread most is 
that the men of Yen may dig up the ancestral tombs outside 
the town, and by inflicting this indignity on our forefathers 
cause us to become faint-hearted.' Forthwith the besiegers 
dug up all the graves and burned the corpses lying in them. 
And the inhabitants of Chi-mo, witnessing the outrage from 
the city-walls, wept passionately and were all impatient to go 
out and fight, their fury being increased tenfold. Tien Tan 
knew then that his soldiers were ready for any enterprise. 
But instead of a sword, he himself too a mattock in his 
hands, and ordered others to be distributed amongst his 
best warriors, while the ranks were filled up with their wives 
and concubines. He then served out all the remaining rations 
and bade his men eat their fill. The regular soldiers were told 
to keep out of sight, and the walls were manned with the old 
and weaker men and with women. This done, envoys were 
dispatched to the enemy's camp to arrange terms of 
surrender, whereupon the Yen army began shouting for joy. 
Fien Tan also collected 20,000 ounces of silver from the 
people, and got the wealthy citizens of Chi-mo to send it to 
the Yen general with the prayer that, when the town 
capitulated, he would allow their homes to be plundered or 
their women to be maltreated. Chfi Chieh, in high good 
humor, granted their prayer; but his army now became 
increasingly slack and careless. Meanwhile, Tien Tan got 
together a thousand oxen, decked them with pieces of red 



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silk, painted their bodies, dragon-like, with colored stripes, 
and fastened sharp blades on their horns and well-greased 
rushes on their tails. When night came on, he lighted the 
ends of the rushes, and drove the oxen through a number of 
holes which he had pierced in the walls, backing them up 
with a force of 5000 picked warriors. The animals, 
maddened with pain, dashed furiously into the enemy's 
camp where they caused the utmost confusion and dismay; 
for their tails acted as torches, showing up the hideous 
pattern on their bodies, and the weapons on their horns 
killed or wounded any with whom they came into contact. In 
the meantime, the band of 5000 had crept up with gags in 
their mouths, and now threw themselves on the enemy. At 
the same moment a frightful din arose in the city itself, all 
those that remained behind making as much noise as 
possible by banging drums and hammering on bronze 
vessels, until heaven and earth were convulsed by the 
uproar. Terror-stricken, the Yen army fled in disorder, hotly 
pursued by the men of Chfi, who succeeded in slaying their 
general Chfi ChienThe result of the battle was the ultimate 
recovery of some seventy cities which had belonged to the 
Chfi State."] 

Violent language and driving forward as if to the 
attack are signs that he will retreat. 

25. When the light chariots come out first and take up a 
position on the wings, it is a sign that the enemy is 
forming for battle. 

26. Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn 
covenant indicate a plot. 

[The reading here is uncertain. Li Chf uan indicates "a 
treaty confirmed by oaths and hostages." Wang Hsi and 
Chang Yu, on the other hand, simply say "without reason," 
"on a frivolous pretext."] 

27. When there is much running about 

[Every man hastening to his proper place under his own 
regimental banner.] 

and the soldiers fall into rank, it means that the 
critical moment has come. 



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28. When some are seen advancing and some 
retreating, it is a lure. 

29. When the soldiers stand leaning on their spears, 
they are faint from want of food. 

30. If those who are sent to draw water begin by 
drinking themselves, the army is suffering from 
thirst. 

[As Tu Mu remarks: "One may know the condition of a 
whole army from the behavior of a single man."] 

31. If the enemy sees an advantage to be gained and 
makes no effort to secure it, the soldiers are 
exhausted. 

32. If birds gather on any spot, it is unoccupied. 

[A useful fact to bear in mind when, for instance, as 
Chfen Hao says, the enemy has secretly abandoned his 
camp.] 

Clamor by night betokens nervousness. 

33. If there is disturbance in the camp, the general's 
authority is weak. If the banners and flags are 
shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are 
angry, it means that the men are weary. 

[Tu Mu understands the sentence differently: "If all the 
officers of an army are angry with their general, it means 
that they are broken with fatigue" owing to the exertions 
which he has demanded from them.] 

34. When an army feeds its horses with grain and kills 
its cattle for food, 

[In the ordinary course of things, the men would be fed 
on grain and the horses chiefly on grass.] 

and when the men do not hang their cooking-pots 
over the camp-fires, showing that they will not 
return to their tents, you may know that they are 
determined to fight to the death. 



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[I may quote here the illustrative passage from the HOU 
HAN SHU, ch. 71 , given in abbreviated form by the P X EI 
WEN YUN FU: "The rebel Wang Kuo of Liang was besieging 
the town of Chfen-ts'ang, and Huang-fu Sung, who was in 
supreme command, and Tung Cho were sent out against 
him. The latter pressed for hasty measures, but Sung turned 
a deaf ear to his counsel. At last the rebels were utterly worn 
out, and began to throw down their weapons of their own 
accord. Sung was not advancing to the attack, but Cho said: 
'It is a principle of war not to pursue desperate men and not 
to press a retreating host.' Sung answered: 'That does not 
apply here. What I am about to attack is a jaded army, not a 
retreating host; with disciplined troops I am falling on a 
disorganized multitude, not a band of desperate men.' 
Thereupon he advances to the attack unsupported by his 
colleague, and routed the enemy, Wang Kuo being slain."] 

35. The sight of men whispering together in small knots 
or speaking in subdued tones points to disaffection 
amongst the rank and file. 

36. Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at 
the end of his resources; 

[Because, when an army is hard pressed, as Tu Mu 
says, there is always a fear of mutiny, and lavish rewards 
are given to keep the men in good temper.] 

too many punishments betray a condition of dire 
distress. 

[Because in such case discipline becomes relaxed, and 
unwonted severity is necessary to keep the men to their 
duty.] 

37. To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at 
the enemy's numbers, shows a supreme lack of 
intelligence. 

[I follow the interpretation of Ts'ao Kung, also adopted 
by Li Chf uan, Tu Mu, and Chang Yu. Another possible 
meaning set forth by Tu Yu, Chia Lin, Mei Tao-chfen and 
Wang Hsi, is: "The general who is first tyrannical towards his 
men, and then in terror lest they should mutiny, etc." This 



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would connect the sentence with what went before about 
rewards and punishments.] 

38. When envoys are sent with compliments in their 
mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a 
truce. 

[Tu Mu says: "If the enemy open friendly relations be 
sending hostages, it is a sign that they are anxious for an 
armistice, either because their strength is exhausted or for 
some other reason." But it hardly needs a Sun Tzu to draw 
such an obvious inference.] 

39. If the enemy's troops march up angrily and remain 
facing ours for a long time without either joining 
battle or taking themselves off again, the situation 
is one that demands great vigilance and 
circumspection. 

[Ts'ao Kung says a maneuver of this sort may be only a 
ruse to gain time for an unexpected flank attack or the laying 
of an ambush.] 

40. If our troops are no more in number than the enemy, 
that is amply sufficient; it only means that no direct 
attack can be made. 

[Literally, "no martial advance." That is to say, CHENG 
tactics and frontal attacks must be eschewed, and stratagem 
resorted to instead.] 

What we can do is simply to concentrate all our 
available strength, keep a close watch on the enemy, 
and obtain reinforcements. 

[This is an obscure sentence, and none of the 
commentators succeed in squeezing very good sense out of 
it. I follow Li Chfuan, who appears to offer the simplest 
explanation: "Only the side that gets more men will win." 
Fortunately we have Chang Yu to expound its meaning to us 
in language which is lucidity itself: "When the numbers are 
even, and no favorable opening presents itself, although we 
may not be strong enough to deliver a sustained attack, we 
can find additional recruits amongst our sutlers and camp- 
followers, and then, concentrating our forces and keeping a 



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close watch on the enemy, contrive to snatch the victory. But 
we must avoid borrowing foreign soldiers to help us." He 
then quotes from Wei Liao Tzu, ch. 3: "The nominal strength 
of mercenary troops may be 100,000, but their real value will 
be not more than half that figure."] 

41. He who exercises no forethought but makes light of 
his opponents is sure to be captured by them. 

[CIV en Hao, quoting from the TSO CHUAN, says: "If 
bees and scorpions carry poison, how much more will a 
hostile state! Even a puny opponent, then, should not be 
treated with contempt."] 

42. If soldiers are punished before they have grown 
attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, 
unless submissive, then will be practically useless. 
If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, 
punishments are not enforced, they will still be 
unless. 

43. Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first 
instance with humanity, but kept under control by 
means of iron discipline. 

[Yen Tzu [B.C. 493] said of Ssu-ma Jang-chu: "His civil 
virtues endeared him to the people; his martial prowess kept 
his enemies in awe." Cf. Wu Tzu, ch. 4 init.: "The ideal 
commander unites culture with a warlike temper; the 
profession of arms requires a combination of hardness and 
tenderness."] 

This is a certain road to victory. 

44. If in training soldiers commands are habitually 
enforced, the army will be well-disciplined; if not, its 
discipline will be bad. 

45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always 
insists on his orders being obeyed, 

[Tu Mu says: "A general ought in time of peace to show 
kindly confidence in his men and also make his authority 
respected, so that when they come to face the enemy, 
orders may be executed and discipline maintained, because 



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they all trust and look up to him." What Sun Tzu has said in 
ss. 44, however, would lead one rather to expect something 
like this: "If a general is always confident that his orders will 
be carried out," etc."] 

the gain will be mutual. 

[Chang Yu says: "The general has confidence in the 
men under his command, and the men are docile, having 
confidence in him. Thus the gain is mutual" He quotes a 
pregnant sentence from Wei Liao Tzu, ch. 4: "The art of 
giving orders is not to try to rectify minor blunders and not to 
be swayed by petty doubts." Vacillation and fussiness are 
the surest means of sapping the confidence of an army.] 

[1] "Aids to Scouting," p. 26. 



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X, Terrain 

[Only about a third of the chapter, comprising ss. ss. 1- 
13, deals with "terrain," the subject being more fully treated 
in ch. XI. The "six calamities" are discussed in SS. 14-20, 
and the rest of the chapter is again a mere string of 
desultory remarks, though not less interesting, perhaps, on 
that account.] 

1. Sun Tzu said: We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, 

to wit: (1) Accessible ground; 

[Mei Yao-chf en says: "plentifully provided with roads and 
means of communications."] 

(2) entangling ground; 

[The same commentator says: "Net-like country, 
venturing into which you become entangled."] 

(3) temporizing ground; 

[Ground which allows you to "stave off" or "delay."] 

(4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; (6) 
positions at a great distance from the enemy. 

[It is hardly necessary to point out the faultiness of this 
classification. A strange lack of logical perception is shown 
in the Chinaman's unquestioning acceptance of glaring 
cross-divisions such as the above.] 

2. Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is 

called ACCESSIBLE. 

3. With regard to ground of this nature, be before the 

enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and 
carefully guard your line of supplies. 

[The general meaning of the last phrase is doubtlessly, 
as Tu Yu says, "not to allow the enemy to cut your 
communications." In view of Napoleon's dictum, "the secret 
of war lies in the communications," [1] we could wish that 
Sun Tzu had done more than skirt the edge of this important 
subject here and in I. ss. 10, VII. ss. 11. Col. Henderson 
says: "The line of supply may be said to be as vital to the 
existence of an army as the heart to the life of a human 

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being. Just as the duelist who finds his adversary's point 
menacing him with certain death, and his own guard astray, 
is compelled to conform to his adversary's movements, and 
to content himself with warding off his thrusts, so the 
commander whose communications are suddenly threatened 
finds himself in a false position, and he will be fortunate if he 
has not to change all his plans, to split up his force into more 
or less isolated detachments, and to fight with inferior 
numbers on ground which he has not had time to prepare, 
and where defeat will not be an ordinary failure, but will 
entail the ruin or surrender of his whole army." [2] 

Then you will be able to fight with advantage. 

4. Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re- 

occupy is called ENTANGLING. 

5. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is 

unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But 
if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you 
fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, 
disaster will ensue. 

6. When the position is such that neither side will gain 

by making the first move, it is called TEMPORIZING 
ground. 

[Tu Mu says: "Each side finds it inconvenient to move, 
and the situation remains at a deadlock."] 

7. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy 

should offer us an attractive bait, 

[Tu Yu says, "turning their backs on us and pretending to 
flee." But this is only one of the lures which might induce us 
to quit our position.] 

it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to 
retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, 
when part of his army has come out, we may deliver 
our attack with advantage. 

8. With regard to NARROW PASSES, if you can occupy 

them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await 
the advent of the enemy. 



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[Because then, as Tu Yu observes, "the initiative will lie 
with us, and by making sudden and unexpected attacks we 
shall have the enemy at our mercy."] 

9. Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass, do 

not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but 
only if it is weakly garrisoned. 

10. With regard to PRECIPITOUS HEIGHTS, if you are 
beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy 
the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to 
come up. 

[Ts'ao Kung says: "The particular advantage of securing 
heights and defiles is that your actions cannot then be 
dictated by the enemy." [For the enunciation of the grand 
principle alluded to, see VI. ss. 2]. Chang Yu tells the 
following anecdote of P'ei Hsing-chien (A.D. 619-682), who 
was sent on a punitive expedition against the Turkic tribes. 
"At night he pitched his camp as usual, and it had already 
been completely fortified by wall and ditch, when suddenly 
he gave orders that the army should shift its quarters to a hill 
near by. This was highly displeasing to his officers, who 
protested loudly against the extra fatigue which it would 
entail on the men. P x ei Hsing-chien, however, paid no heed 
to their remonstrances and had the camp moved as quickly 
as possible. The same night, a terrific storm came on, which 
flooded their former place of encampment to the depth of 
over twelve feet. The recalcitrant officers were amazed at 
the sight, and owned that they had been in the wrong. 'How 
did you know what was going to happen?' they asked. P'ei 
Hsing-chien replied: 'From this time forward be content to 
obey orders without asking unnecessary questions.' From 
this it may be seen," Chang Yu continues, "that high and 
sunny places are advantageous not only for fighting, but also 
because they are immune from disastrous floods."] 

11. If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not 
follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away. 

[The turning point of Li Shih-min's campaign in 621 A.D. 
against the two rebels, Tou Chien-te, King of Hsia, and 
Wang Shih-chfung, Prince of Cheng, was his seizure of the 
heights of Wu-lao, in spike of which Tou Chien-te persisted 



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in his attempt to relieve his ally in Lo-yang, was defeated 
and taken prisoner. See CHIU "TANG, ch. 2, fol. 5 verso, 
and also ch. 54.] 

12. If you are situated at a great distance from the 
enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, 
it is not easy to provoke a battle, 

[The point is that we must not think of undertaking a 
long and wearisome march, at the end of which, as Tu Yu 
says, "we should be exhausted and our adversary fresh and 
keen."] 

and fighting will be to your disadvantage. 

13. These six are the principles connected with Earth. 

[Or perhaps, "the principles relating to ground." See, 
however, I. ss. 8.] 

The general who has attained a responsible post 
must be careful to study them. 

14. Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, 
not arising from natural causes, but from faults for 
which the general is responsible. These are: (1) 
Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) 
disorganization; (6) rout. 

15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled 
against another ten times its size, the result will be 
the FLIGHT of the former. 

16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their 
officers too weak, the result is INSUBORDINATION. 

[Tu Mu cites the unhappy case of Tien Pu [HSIN TANG 
SHU, ch. 148], who was sent to Wei in 821 A.D. with orders 
to lead an army against Wang Ting-ts'ou. But the whole 
time he was in command, his soldiers treated him with the 
utmost contempt, and openly flouted his authority by riding 
about the camp on donkeys, several thousands at a time. 
Tien Pu was powerless to put a stop to this conduct, and 
when, after some months had passed, he made an attempt 
to engage the enemy, his troops turned tail and dispersed in 



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every direction. After that, the unfortunate man committed 
suicide by cutting his throat.] 

When the officers are too strong and the common 
soldiers too weak, the result is COLLAPSE. 

[Ts'ao Kung says: "The officers are energetic and want 
to press on, the common soldiers are feeble and suddenly 
collapse."] 

17. When the higher officers are angry and 
insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle 
on their own account from a feeling of resentment, 
before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or 
no he is in a position to fight, the result is RUIN. 

[Wang Hsi's note is: "This means, the general is angry 
without cause, and at the same time does not appreciate the 
ability of his subordinate officers; thus he arouses fierce 
resentment and brings an avalanche of ruin upon his head."] 

18. When the general is weak and without authority; 
when his orders are not clear and distinct; 

[Wei Liao Tzu (ch. 4) says: "If the commander gives his 
orders with decision, the soldiers will not wait to hear them 
twice; if his moves are made without vacillation, the soldiers 
will not be in two minds about doing their duty." General 
Baden-Powell says, italicizing the words: "The secret of 
getting successful work out of your trained men lies in one 
nutshell — in the clearness of the instructions they receive." 
[3] Cf. also Wu Tzu ch. 3: "the most fatal defect in a military 
leader is difference; the worst calamities that befall an army 
arise from hesitation."] 

when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers 
and men, 

[Tu Mu says: "Neither officers nor men have any regular 
routine."] 

and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard 
manner, the result is utter DISORGANIZATION. 

19. When a general, unable to estimate the enemy's 
strength, allows an inferior force to engage a larger 



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one, or hurls a weak detachment against a powerful 
one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the 
front rank, the result must be ROUT. 

[Chang Yu paraphrases the latter part of the sentence 
and continues: "Whenever there is fighting to be done, the 
keenest spirits should be appointed to serve in the front 
ranks, both in order to strengthen the resolution of our own 
men and to demoralize the enemy." Cf. the primi ordines of 
Caesar ("De Bello Gallico," V. 28, 44, et al.).] 

20. These are six ways of courting defeat, which must 
be carefully noted by the general who has attained a 
responsible post. 

[See supra, ss. 13.] 

21. The natural formation of the country is the soldier's 
best ally; 

[Chf en Hao says: "The advantages of weather and 
season are not equal to those connected with ground."] 

but a power of estimating the adversary, of 
controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly 
calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, 
constitutes the test of a great general. 

22. He who knows these things, and in fighting puts his 
knowledge into practice, will win his battles. He who 
knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be 
defeated. 

23. If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must 
fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will 
not result in victory, then you must not fight even at 
the ruler's bidding. 

[Cf. VIII. ss. 3 fin. Huang Shih-kung of the Chun dynasty, 
who is said to have been the patron of Chang Liang and to 
have written the SAN LUEH, has these words attributed to 
him: "The responsibility of setting an army in motion must 
devolve on the general alone; if advance and retreat are 
controlled from the Palace, brilliant results will hardly be 
achieved. Hence the god-like ruler and the enlightened 



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monarch are content to play a humble part in furthering their 
country's cause [lit., kneel down to push the chariot wheel]." 
This means that "in matters lying outside the zenana, the 
decision of the military commander must be absolute." 
Chang Yu also quote the saying: "Decrees from the Son of 
Heaven do not penetrate the walls of a camp."] 

24. The general who advances without coveting fame 
and retreats without fearing disgrace, 

[It was Wellington, I think, who said that the hardest 
thing of all for a soldier is to retreat.] 

whose only thought is to protect his country and do 
good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the 
kingdom. 

[A noble presentiment, in few words, of the Chinese 
"happy warrior." Such a man, says Ho Shih, "even if he had 
to suffer punishment, would not regret his conduct."] 

25. Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will 
follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them 
as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you 
even unto death. 

[Cf. I. ss. 6. In this connection, Tu Mu draws for us an 
engaging picture of the famous general Wu Chfi, from whose 
treatise on war I have frequently had occasion to quote: "He 
wore the same clothes and ate the same food as the 
meanest of his soldiers, refused to have either a horse to 
ride or a mat to sleep on, carried his own surplus rations 
wrapped in a parcel, and shared every hardship with his 
men. One of his soldiers was suffering from an abscess, and 
Wu Chfi himself sucked out the virus. The soldier's mother, 
hearing this, began wailing and lamenting. Somebody asked 
her, saying: 'Why do you cry? Your son is only a common 
soldier, and yet the commander-in-chief himself has sucked 
the poison from his sore.' The woman replied, 'Many years 
ago, Lord Wu performed a similar service for my husband, 
who never left him afterwards, and finally met his death at 
the hands of the enemy. And now that he has done the same 
for my son, he too will fall fighting I know not where.'" Li 
Chf uan mentions the Viscount of Chf u, who invaded the 
small state of Hsiao during the winter. The Duke of Shen 



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said to him: "Many of the soldiers are suffering severely from 
the cold." So he made a round of the whole army, comforting 
and encouraging the men; and straightway they felt as if 
they were clothed in garments lined with floss silk.] 

26. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make 
your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to 
enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of 
quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened 
to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical 
purpose. 

[Li Ching once said that if you could make your soldiers 
afraid of you, they would not be afraid of the enemy. Tu Mu 
recalls an instance of stern military discipline which occurred 
in 219 A.D., when Lu Meng was occupying the town of 
Chiang-ling. He had given stringent orders to his army not to 
molest the inhabitants nor take anything from them by force. 
Nevertheless, a certain officer serving under his banner, who 
happened to be a fellow-townsman, ventured to appropriate 
a bamboo hat belonging to one of the people, in order to 
wear it over his regulation helmet as a protection against the 
rain. Lu Meng considered that the fact of his being also a 
native of Ju-nan should not be allowed to palliate a clear 
breach of discipline, and accordingly he ordered his 
summary execution, the tears rolling down his face, 
however, as he did so. This act of severity filled the army 
with wholesome awe, and from that time forth even articles 
dropped in the highway were not picked up.] 

27. If we know that our own men are in a condition to 
attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open 
to attack, we have gone only halfway towards 
victory. 

[That is, Ts'ao Kung says, "the issue in this case is 
uncertain."] 

28. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are 
unaware that our own men are not in a condition to 
attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. 

[Cf. III. ss. 13 (1).] 



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29. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and 
also know that our men are in a condition to attack, 
but are unaware that the nature of the ground makes 
fighting impracticable, we have still gone only 
halfway towards victory. 

30. Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is 
never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is 
never at a loss. 

[The reason being, according to Tu Mu, that he has 
taken his measures so thoroughly as to ensure victory 
beforehand. "He does not move recklessly," says Chang Yu, 
"so that when he does move, he makes no mistakes."] 

31. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know 
yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you 
know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your 
victory complete. 

[Li Chfuan sums up as follows: "Given a knowledge of 
three things — the affairs of men, the seasons of heaven and 
the natural advantages of earth — , victory will invariably 
crown your battles."] 



[1] See "Pensees de Napoleon 1er," no. 47. 
[2] "The Science of War," chap. 2. 
[3] "Aids to Scouting," p. xii. 



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XL The Nine Situations 

1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war recognizes nine 

varieties of ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile 
ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) 
ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; 
(7) difficult ground; (8) hemmed-in ground; (9) 
desperate ground. 

2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is 

dispersive ground. 

[So called because the soldiers, being near to their 
homes and anxious to see their wives and children, are likely 
to seize the opportunity afforded by a battle and scatter in 
every direction. "In their advance," observes Tu Mu, "they 
will lack the valor of desperation, and when they retreat, 
they will find harbors of refuge."] 

3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to 

no great distance, it is facile ground. 

[Li Chfuan and Ho Shih say "because of the facility for 
retreating," and the other commentators give similar 
explanations. Tu Mu remarks: "When your army has crossed 
the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order 
to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering 
after home."] 

4. Ground the possession of which imports great 

advantage to either side, is contentious ground. 

[Tu Mu defines the ground as ground "to be contended 
for." Ts'ao Kung says: "ground on which the few and the 
weak can defeat the many and the strong," such as "the 
neck of a pass," instanced by Li Chfuan. Thus, Thermopylae 
was of this classification because the possession of it, even 
for a few days only, meant holding the entire invading army 
in check and thus gaining invaluable time. Cf. Wu Tzu, ch. V. 
ad in it . : "For those who have to fight in the ratio of one to 
ten, there is nothing better than a narrow pass." When Lu 
Kuang was returning from his triumphant expedition to 
Turkestan in 385 A.D., and had got as far as l-ho, laden with 
spoils, Liang Hsi, administrator of Liang-chou, taking 



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advantage of the death of Fu Chien, King of Chun, plotted 
against him and was for barring his way into the province. 
Yang Han, governor of Kao-chf ang, counseled him, saying: 
"Lu Kuang is fresh from his victories in the west, and his 
soldiers are vigorous and mettlesome. If we oppose him in 
the shifting sands of the desert, we shall be no match for 
him, and we must therefore try a different plan. Let us 
hasten to occupy the defile at the mouth of the Kao-wu pass, 
thus cutting him off from supplies of water, and when his 
troops are prostrated with thirst, we can dictate our own 
terms without moving. Or if you think that the pass I mention 
is too far off, we could make a stand against him at the l-wu 
pass, which is nearer. The cunning and resource of Tzu-fang 
himself would be expended in vain against the enormous 
strength of these two positions." Liang Hsi, refusing to act on 
this advice, was overwhelmed and swept away by the 
invader.] 

Ground on which each side has liberty of movement 
is open ground. 

[There are various interpretations of the Chinese 
adjective for this type of ground. Ts'ao Kung says it means 
"ground covered with a network of roads," like a chessboard. 
Ho Shih suggested: "ground on which intercommunication is 
easy."] 

Ground which forms the key to three contiguous 
states, 

[Ts'au Kung defines this as: "Our country adjoining the 
enemy's and a third country conterminous with both." Meng 
Shih instances the small principality of Cheng, which was 
bounded on the north-east by Chfi, on the west by Chin, and 
on the south by Chfu.] 

so that he who occupies it first has most of the 
Empire at his command, 

[The belligerent who holds this dominating position can 
constrain most of them to become his allies.] 



is a ground of intersecting highways, 



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7. When an army has penetrated into the heart of a 

hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities 
in its rear, it is serious ground. 

[Wang Hsi explains the name by saying that "when an 
army has reached such a point, its situation is serious."] 

8. Mountain forests, 

[Or simply "forests."] 

rugged steeps, marshes and fens — all country that is 
hard to traverse: this is difficult ground. 

9. Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and 

from which we can only retire by tortuous paths, so 
that a small number of the enemy would suffice to 
crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed in 
ground. 

10. Ground on which we can only be saved from 
destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate 
ground. 

[The situation, as pictured by Ts'ao Kung, is very similar 
to the "hemmed-in ground" except that here escape is no 
longer possible: "A lofty mountain in front, a large river 
behind, advance impossible, retreat blocked." Chfen Hao 
says: "to be on 'desperate ground' is like sitting in a leaking 
boat or crouching in a burning house." Tu Mu quotes from Li 
Ching a vivid description of the plight of an army thus 
entrapped: "Suppose an army invading hostile territory 
without the aid of local guides: — it falls into a fatal snare 
and is at the enemy's mercy. A ravine on the left, a mountain 
on the right, a pathway so perilous that the horses have to 
be roped together and the chariots carried in slings, no 
passage open in front, retreat cut off behind, no choice but 
to proceed in single file. Then, before there is time to range 
our soldiers in order of battle, the enemy is overwhelming 
strength suddenly appears on the scene. Advancing, we can 
nowhere take a breathing-space; retreating, we have no 
haven of refuge. We seek a pitched battle, but in vain; yet 
standing on the defensive, none of us has a moment's 
respite. If we simply maintain our ground, whole days and 
months will crawl by; the moment we make a move, we have 

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to sustain the enemy's attacks on front and rear. The country 
is wild, destitute of water and plants; the army is lacking in 
the necessaries of life, the horses are jaded and the men 
worn-out, all the resources of strength and skill unavailing, 
the pass so narrow that a single man defending it can check 
the onset of ten thousand; all means of offense in the hands 
of the enemy, all points of vantage already forfeited by 
ourselves: in this terrible plight, even though we had the 
most valiant soldiers and the keenest of weapons, how could 
they be employed with the slightest effect?" Students of 
Greek history may be reminded of the awful close to the 
Sicilian expedition, and the agony of the Athenians under 
Nicias and Demonsthenes. [See Thucydides, VII. 78 sqq.].] 

11. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile 
ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. 

[But rather let all your energies be bent on occupying 
the advantageous position first. So Ts'ao Kung. Li Chfuan 
and others, however, suppose the meaning to be that the 
enemy has already forestalled us, sot that it would be sheer 
madness to attack. In the SUN TZU HSU LU, when the King 
of Wu inquires what should be done in this case, Sun Tzu 
replies: "The rule with regard to contentious ground is that 
those in possession have the advantage over the other side. 
If a position of this kind is secured first by the enemy, 
beware of attacking him. Lure him away by pretending to 
flee — show your banners and sound your drums — make a 
dash for other places that he cannot afford to lose — trail 
brushwood and raise a dust — confound his ears and eyes — 
detach a body of your best troops, and place it secretly in 
ambuscade. Then your opponent will sally forth to the 
rescue."] 

12. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's 
way. 

[Because the attempt would be futile, and would expose 
the blocking force itself to serious risks. There are two 
interpretations available here. I follow that of Chang Yu. The 
other is indicated in Ts'ao Kung's brief note: "Draw closer 
together" — i.e., see that a portion of your own army is not cut 
off.] 



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On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands 
with your allies. 

[Or perhaps, "form alliances with neighboring states."] 

13. On serious ground, gather in plunder. 

[On this, Li Chfuan has the following delicious note: 
"When an army penetrates far into the enemy's country, care 
must be taken not to alienate the people by unjust treatment. 
Follow the example of the Han Emperor Kao Tsu, whose 
march into Chun territory was marked by no violation of 
women or looting of valuables. [Nota dene: this was in 207 
BC, and may well cause us to blush for the Christian armies 
that entered Peking in 1900 AD] Thus he won the hearts of 
all. In the present passage, then, I think that the true reading 
must be, not 'plunder,' but 'do not plunder.'" Alas, I fear that 
in this instance the worthy commentator's feelings outran his 
judgment. Tu Mu, at least, has no such illusions. He says: 
"When encamped on 'serious ground,' there being no 
inducement as yet to advance further, and no possibility of 
retreat, one ought to take measures for a protracted 
resistance by bringing in provisions from all sides, and keep 
a close watch on the enemy."] 

In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march. 
[Or, in the words of VIII. ss. 2, "do not encamp.] 

14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. 

[Ts'au Kung says: "Try the effect of some unusual 
artifice;" and Tu Yu amplifies this by saying: "In such a 
position, some scheme must be devised which will suit the 
circumstances, and if we can succeed in deluding the 
enemy, the peril may be escaped." This is exactly what 
happened on the famous occasion when Hannibal was 
hemmed in among the mountains on the road to Casilinum, 
and to all appearances entrapped by the dictator Fabius. 
The stratagem which Hannibal devised to baffle his foes was 
remarkably like that which T'ien Tan had also employed with 
success exactly 62 years before. [See IX. ss. 24, note.] 
When night came on, bundles of twigs were fastened to the 
horns of some 2000 oxen and set on fire, the terrified 
animals being then quickly driven along the mountain side 
towards the passes which were beset by the enemy. The 

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strange spectacle of these rapidly moving lights so alarmed 
and discomfited the Romans that they withdrew from their 
position, and Hannibal's army passed safely through the 
defile. [See Polybius, III. 93, 94; Livy, XXII. 16 17.] 

On desperate ground, fight. 

[For, as Chia Lin remarks: "if you fight with all your 
might, there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if 
you cling to your corner."] 

15. Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew 
how to drive a wedge between the enemy's front and 
rear; 

[More literally, "cause the front and rear to lose touch 
with each other."] 

to prevent co-operation between his large and small 
divisions; to hinder the good troops from rescuing 
the bad, the officers from rallying their men. 

16. When the enemy's men were united, they managed 
to keep them in disorder. 

17. When it was to their advantage, they made a 
forward move; when otherwise, they stopped still. 

[Mei Yao-chfen connects this with the foregoing: "Having 
succeeded in thus dislocating the enemy, they would push 
forward in order to secure any advantage to be gained; if 
there was no advantage to be gained, they would remain 
where they were."] 

18. If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy 
in orderly array and on the point of marching to the 
attack, I should say: "Begin by seizing something 
which your opponent holds dear; then he will be 
amenable to your will." 

[Opinions differ as to what Sun Tzu had in mind. Ts'ao 
Kung thinks it is "some strategical advantage on which the 
enemy is depending." Tu Mu says: "The three things which 
an enemy is anxious to do, and on the accomplishment of 
which his success depends, are: (1) to capture our favorable 
positions; (2) to ravage our cultivated land; (3) to guard his 



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own communications." Our object then must be to thwart his 
plans in these three directions and thus render him helpless. 
[Cf. III. ss. 3.] By boldly seizing the initiative in this way, you 
at once throw the other side on the defensive.] 

19. Rapidity is the essence of war: 

[According to Tu Mu, "this is a summary of leading 
principles in warfare," and he adds: "These are the 
profoundest truths of military science, and the chief business 
of the general." The following anecdotes, told by Ho Shih, 
shows the importance attached to speed by two of China's 
greatest generals. In 227 A.D., Meng Ta, governor of Hsin- 
chfeng under the Wei Emperor Wen Ti, was meditating 
defection to the House of Shu, and had entered into 
correspondence with Chu-ko Liang, Prime Minister of that 
State. The Wei general Ssu-ma I was then military governor 
of Wan, and getting wind of Meng Ta's treachery, he at once 
set off with an army to anticipate his revolt, having 
previously cajoled him by a specious message of friendly 
import. Ssu-ma's officers came to him and said: "If Meng Ta 
has leagued himself with Wu and Shu, the matter should be 
thoroughly investigated before we make a move." Ssu-ma I 
replied: "Meng Ta is an unprincipled man, and we ought to 
go and punish him at once, while he is still wavering and 
before he has thrown off the mask." Then, by a series of 
forced marches, be brought his army under the walls of 
Hsin-chfeng with in a space of eight days. Now Meng Ta had 
previously said in a letter to Chu-ko Liang: "Wan is 1200 LI 
from here. When the news of my revolt reaches Ssu-ma I, he 
will at once inform his imperial master, but it will be a whole 
month before any steps can be taken, and by that time my 
city will be well fortified. Besides, Ssu-ma I is sure not to 
come himself, and the generals that will be sent against us 
are not worth troubling about." The next letter, however, was 
filled with consternation: "Though only eight days have 
passed since I threw off my allegiance, an army is already at 
the city-gates. What miraculous rapidity is this!" A fortnight 
later, Hsin-chfeng had fallen and Meng Ta had lost his head. 
[See CHIN SHU, ch. 1, f. 3.] In 621 A.D., Li Ching was sent 
from ICuei-chou in Ssu-chf uan to reduce the successful 
rebel Hsiao Hsien, who had set up as Emperor at the 
modern Ching-chou Fu in Hupeh. It was autumn, and the 
Yangtsze being then in flood, Hsiao Hsien never dreamt that 

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his adversary would venture to come down through the 
gorges, and consequently made no preparations. But Li 
Ching embarked his army without loss of time, and was just 
about to start when the other generals implored him to 
postpone his departure until the river was in a less 
dangerous state for navigation. Li Ching replied: "To the 
soldier, overwhelming speed is of paramount importance, 
and he must never miss opportunities. Now is the time to 
strike, before Hsiao Hsien even knows that we have got an 
army together. If we seize the present moment when the 
river is in flood, we shall appear before his capital with 
startling suddenness, like the thunder which is heard before 
you have time to stop your ears against it. [See VII. ss. 19, 
note.] This is the great principle in war. Even if he gets to 
know of our approach, he will have to levy his soldiers in 
such a hurry that they will not be fit to oppose us. Thus the 
full fruits of victory will be ours." All came about as he 
predicted, and Hsiao Hsien was obliged to surrender, nobly 
stipulating that his people should be spared and he alone 
suffer the penalty of death.] 

take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make 
your way by unexpected routes, and attack 
unguarded spots. 

20. The following are the principles to be observed by 
an invading force: The further you penetrate into a 
country, the greater will be the solidarity of your 
troops, and thus the defenders will not prevail 
against you. 

21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply 
your army with food. 

[Cf. supra, ss. 13. Li Chf uan does not venture on a note 
here.] 

22. Carefully study the well-being of your men, 

[For "well-being", Wang Hsi means, "Pet them, humor 
them, give them plenty of food and drink, and look after them 
generally."] 

and do not overtax them. Concentrate your energy 
and hoard your strength. 



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[Chf en recalls the line of action adopted in 224 B.C. by 
the famous general Wang Chien, whose military genius 
largely contributed to the success of the First Emperor. He 
had invaded the Chf u State, where a universal levy was 
made to oppose him. But, being doubtful of the temper of his 
troops, he declined all invitations to fight and remained 
strictly on the defensive. In vain did the Chfu general try to 
force a battle: day after day Wang Chien kept inside his 
walls and would not come out, but devoted his whole time 
and energy to winning the affection and confidence of his 
men. He took care that they should be well fed, sharing his 
own meals with them, provided facilities for bathing, and 
employed every method of judicious indulgence to weld them 
into a loyal and homogenous body. After some time had 
elapsed, he told off certain persons to find out how the men 
were amusing themselves. The answer was, that they were 
contending with one another in putting the weight and long- 
jumping. When Wang Chien heard that they were engaged in 
these athletic pursuits, he knew that their spirits had been 
strung up to the required pitch and that they were now ready 
for fighting. By this time the Chfu army, after repeating their 
challenge again and again, had marched away eastwards in 
disgust. The Chf in general immediately broke up his camp 
and followed them, and in the battle that ensued they were 
routed with great slaughter. Shortly afterwards, the whole of 
Chfu was conquered by Chf in, and the king Fu-chf u led into 
captivity.] 

Keep your army continually on the move, 

[In order that the enemy may never know exactly where 
you are. It has struck me, however, that the true reading 
might be "link your army together."] 

and devise unfathomable plans. 

23. Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is 
no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If 
they will face death, there is nothing they may not 
achieve. 

[Chang Yu quotes his favorite Wei Liao Tzu (ch. 3): "If 
one man were to run amok with a sword in the market-place, 
and everybody else tried to get our of his way, I should not 
allow that this man alone had courage and that all the rest 

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were contemptible cowards. The truth is, that a desperado 
and a man who sets some value on his life do not meet on 
even terms."] 

Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost 
strength. 

[Chang Yu says: "If they are in an awkward place 
together, they will surely exert their united strength to get out 
of it."] 

24. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of 
fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand 
firm. If they are in hostile country, they will show a 
stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will 
fight hard. 

25. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers 
will be constantly on the qui vive; without waiting to 
be asked, they will do your will; 

[Literally, "without asking, you will get."] 

without restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving 
orders, they can be trusted. 

26. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with 
superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, 
no calamity need be feared. 

[The superstitious, "bound in to saucy doubts and fears," 
degenerate into cowards and "die many times before their 
deaths." Tu Mu quotes Huang Shih-kung: '"Spells and 
incantations should be strictly forbidden, and no officer 
allowed to inquire by divination into the fortunes of an army, 
for fear the soldiers' minds should be seriously perturbed.' 
The meaning is," he continues, "that if all doubts and 
scruples are discarded, your men will never falter in their 
resolution until they die."] 

27. If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it 
is not because they have a distaste for riches; if 
their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they 
are disinclined to longevity. 



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[Chang Yu has the best note on this passage: "Wealth 
and long life are things for which all men have a natural 
inclination. Hence, if they burn or fling away valuables, and 
sacrifice their own lives, it is not that they dislike them, but 
simply that they have no choice." Sun Tzu is slyly insinuating 
that, as soldiers are but human, it is for the general to see 
that temptations to shirk fighting and grow rich are not 
thrown in their way.] 

28. On the day they are ordered out to battle, your 
soldiers may weep, 

[The word in the Chinese is "snivel." This is taken to 
indicate more genuine grief than tears alone.] 

those sitting up bedewing their garments, and those 
lying down letting the tears run down their cheeks. 

[Not because they are afraid, but because, as Ts'ao 
Kung says, "all have embraced the firm resolution to do or 
die." We may remember that the heroes of the Iliad were 
equally childlike in showing their emotion. Chang Yu alludes 
to the mournful parting at the I River between Ching K x o and 
his friends, when the former was sent to attempt the life of 
the King of Chun (afterwards First Emperor) in 227 B.C. The 
tears of all flowed down like rain as he bade them farewell 
and uttered the following lines: "The shrill blast is blowing, 
Chilly the burn; Your champion is going — Not to return." [1] ] 

But let them once be brought to bay, and they will 
display the courage of a Chu or a Kuei. 

[Chu was the personal name of Chuan Chu, a native of 
the Wu State and contemporary with Sun Tzu himself, who 
was employed by Kung-tzu Kuang, better known as Ho Lu 
Wang, to assassinate his sovereign Wang Liao with a dagger 
which he secreted in the belly of a fish served up at a 
banquet. He succeeded in his attempt, but was immediately 
hacked to pieced by the king's bodyguard. This was in 515 
B.C. The other hero referred to, Ts'ao Kuei (or Ts'ao Mo), 
performed the exploit which has made his name famous 166 
years earlier, in 681 B.C. Lu had been thrice defeated by 
Chfi, and was just about to conclude a treaty surrendering a 
large slice of territory, when Ts'ao Kuei suddenly seized 
Huan Kung, the Duke of Chu, as he stood on the altar steps 



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and held a dagger against his chest. None of the duke's 
retainers dared to move a muscle, and Ts'ao Kuei 
proceeded to demand full restitution, declaring the Lu was 
being unjustly treated because she was a smaller and a 
weaker state. Huan Kung, in peril of his life, was obliged to 
consent, whereupon Ts'ao Kuei flung away his dagger and 
quietly resumed his place amid the terrified assemblage 
without having so much as changed color. As was to be 
expected, the Duke wanted afterwards to repudiate the 
bargain, but his wise old counselor Kuan Chung pointed out 
to him the impolicy of breaking his word, and the upshot was 
that this bold stroke regained for Lu the whole of what she 
had lost in three pitched battles.] 

29. The skillful tactician may be likened to the SHUAI- 
J AN. Now the SHUAI-J AN is a snake that is found in 
the Ch x ang mountains. 

["Shuai-jan" means "suddenly" or "rapidly," and the 
snake in question was doubtless so called owing to the 
rapidity of its movements. Through this passage, the term in 
the Chinese has now come to be used in the sense of 
"military maneuvers."] 

Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its 
tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its 
head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked 
by head and tail both. 

30. Asked if an army can be made to imitate the SHUAI- 
J AN, 

[That is, as Mei Yao-chfen says, "Is it possible to make 
the front and rear of an army each swiftly responsive to 
attack on the other, just as though they were part of a single 
living body?"] 

I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men 
of Yueh are enemies; 

[Cf. VI. ss. 21.] 

yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and 
are caught by a storm, they will come to each 



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other's assistance just as the left hand helps the 
right. 

[The meaning is: If two enemies will help each other in a 
time of common peril, how much more should two parts of 
the same army, bound together as they are by every tie of 
interest and fellow-feeling. Yet it is notorious that many a 
campaign has been ruined through lack of cooperation, 
especially in the case of allied armies.] 

31. Hence it is not enough to put one's trust in the 
tethering of horses, and the burying of chariot 
wheels in the ground 

[These quaint devices to prevent one's army from 
running away recall the Athenian hero Sophanes, who 
carried the anchor with him at the battle of Plataea, by 
means of which he fastened himself firmly to one spot. [See 
Herodotus, IX. 74.] It is not enough, says Sun Tzu, to render 
flight impossible by such mechanical means. You will not 
succeed unless your men have tenacity and unity of 
purpose, and, above all, a spirit of sympathetic cooperation. 
This is the lesson which can be learned from the SHUAI- 
JAN.] 

32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set 
up one standard of courage which all must reach. 

[Literally, "level the courage [of all] as though [it were 
that of] one." If the ideal army is to form a single organic 
whole, then it follows that the resolution and spirit of its 
component parts must be of the same quality, or at any rate 
must not fall below a certain standard. Wellington's 
seemingly ungrateful description of his army at Waterloo as 
"the worst he had ever commanded" meant no more than 
that it was deficient in this important particular — unity of 
spirit and courage. Had he not foreseen the Belgian 
defections and carefully kept those troops in the 
background, he would almost certainly have lost the day.] 

33. How to make the best of both strong and weak — that 
is a question involving the proper use of ground. 

[Mei Yao-chfen's paraphrase is: "The way to eliminate 
the differences of strong and weak and to make both 



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serviceable is to utilize accidental features of the ground." 
Less reliable troops, if posted in strong positions, will hold 
out as long as better troops on more exposed terrain. The 
advantage of position neutralizes the inferiority in stamina 
and courage. Col. Henderson says: "With all respect to the 
text books, and to the ordinary tactical teaching, I am 
inclined to think that the study of ground is often overlooked, 
and that by no means sufficient importance is attached to 
the selection of positions . and to the immense advantages 
that are to be derived, whether you are defending or 
attacking, from the proper utilization of natural features." [2]] 

34. Thus the skillful general conducts his army just as 
though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by 
the hand. 

[Tu Mu says: "The simile has reference to the ease with 
which he does it."] 

35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus 
ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain 
order. 

36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by 
false reports and appearances, 

[Literally, "to deceive their eyes and ears."] 
and thus keep them in total ignorance. 

[Ts'ao Kung gives us one of his excellent apophthegms: 
"The troops must not be allowed to share your schemes in 
the beginning; they may only rejoice with you over their 
happy outcome." "To mystify, mislead, and surprise the 
enemy," is one of the first principles in war, as had been 
frequently pointed out. But how about the other process — the 
mystification of one's own men? Those who may think that 
Sun Tzu is over-emphatic on this point would do well to read 
Col. Henderson's remarks on Stonewall Jackson's Valley 
campaign: "The infinite pains," he says, "with which Jackson 
sought to conceal, even from his most trusted staff officers, 
his movements, his intentions, and his thoughts, a 
commander less thorough would have pronounced 
useless" — etc. etc. [3] In the year 88 A.D., as we read in ch. 
47 of the HOU HAN SHU, "Pan Chf ao took the field with 



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25,000 men from Khotan and other Central Asian states with 
the object of crushing Yarkand. The King of Kutcha replied 
by dispatching his chief commander to succor the place with 
an army drawn from the kingdoms of Wen-su, Ku-mo, and 
Wei-fou, totaling 50,000 men. Pan Chfao summoned his 
officers and also the King of Khotan to a council of war, and 
said: 'Our forces are now outnumbered and unable to make 
head against the enemy. The best plan, then, is for us to 
separate and disperse, each in a different direction. The 
King of Khotan will march away by the easterly route, and I 
will then return myself towards the west. Let us wait until the 
evening drum has sounded and then start.' Pan Chfao now 
secretly released the prisoners whom he had taken alive, 
and the King of Kutcha was thus informed of his plans. Much 
elated by the news, the latter set off at once at the head of 
10,000 horsemen to bar Pan Chfao's retreat in the west, 
while the King of Wen-su rode eastward with 8000 horse in 
order to intercept the King of Khotan. As soon as Pan Chfao 
knew that the two chieftains had gone, he called his 
divisions together, got them well in hand, and at cock-crow 
hurled them against the army of Yarkand, as it lay 
encamped. The barbarians, panic-stricken, fled in confusion, 
and were closely pursued by Pan Chfao. Over 5000 heads 
were brought back as trophies, besides immense spoils in 
the shape of horses and cattle and valuables of every 
description. Yarkand then capitulating, Kutcha and the other 
kingdoms drew off their respective forces. From that time 
forward, Pan Chfao's prestige completely overawed the 
countries of the west." In this case, we see that the Chinese 
general not only kept his own officers in ignorance of his real 
plans, but actually took the bold step of dividing his army in 
order to deceive the enemy.] 

37. By altering his arrangements and changing his 
plans, 

[Wang Hsi thinks that this means not using the same 
stratagem twice.] 

he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge. 

[Chang Yu, in a quotation from another work, says: "The 
axiom, that war is based on deception, does not apply only 
to deception of the enemy. You must deceive even your own 



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soldiers. Make them follow you, but without letting them 
know why."] 

By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he 
prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose. 

38. At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts 
like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks 
away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep 
into hostile territory before he shows his hand. 

[Literally, "releases the spring" (see V. ss. 15), that is, 
takes some decisive step which makes it impossible for the 
army to return — like Hsiang Yu, who sunk his ships after 
crossing a river. Chfen Hao, followed by Chia Lin, 
understands the words less well as "puts forth every artifice 
at his command."] 

39. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking-pots; like 
a shepherd driving a flock of sheep, he drives his 
men this way and that, and nothing knows whither 
he is going. 

[Tu Mu says: "The army is only cognizant of orders to 
advance or retreat; it is ignorant of the ulterior ends of 
attacking and conquering."] 

40. To muster his host and bring it into danger: — this 
may be termed the business of the general. 

[Sun Tzu means that after mobilization there should be 
no delay in aiming a blow at the enemy's heart. Note how he 
returns again and again to this point. Among the warring 
states of ancient China, desertion was no doubt a much 
more present fear and serious evil than it is in the armies of 
today.] 

41. The different measures suited to the nine varieties 
of ground; 

[Chang Yu says: "One must not be hide-bound in 
interpreting the rules for the nine varieties of ground.] 

the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics; 
and the fundamental laws of human nature: these 
are things that must most certainly be studied. 



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42. When invading hostile territory, the general 
principle is, that penetrating deeply brings cohesion; 
penetrating but a short way means dispersion. 

[Cf. supra, ss. 20.] 

43. When you leave your own country behind, and take 
your army across neighborhood territory, you find 
yourself on critical ground. 

[This "ground" is curiously mentioned in VIII. ss. 2, but it 
does not figure among the Nine Situations or the Six 
Calamities in chap. X. One's first impulse would be to 
translate it distant ground," but this, if we can trust the 
commentators, is precisely what is not meant here. Mei Yao- 
chfen says it is "a position not far enough advanced to be 
called 'facile,' and not near enough to home to be 
'dispersive,' but something between the two." Wang Hsi 
says: "It is ground separated from home by an interjacent 
state, whose territory we have had to cross in order to reach 
it. Hence, it is incumbent on us to settle our business there 
quickly." He adds that this position is of rare occurrence, 
which is the reason why it is not included among the Nine 
Situations.] 

When there are means of communication on all four 
sides, the ground is one of intersecting highways. 

44. When you penetrate deeply into a country, it is 
serious ground. When you penetrate but a little way, 
it is facile ground. 

45. When you have the enemy's strongholds on your 
rear, and narrow passes in front, it is hemmed-in 
ground. When there is no place of refuge at all, it is 
desperate ground. 

46. Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my 
men with unity of purpose. 

[This end, according to Tu Mu, is best attained by 
remaining on the defensive, and avoiding battle. Cf. supra, 
ss. 11.] 



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On facile ground, I would see that there is close 
connection between all parts of my army. 

[As Tu Mu says, the object is to guard against two 
possible contingencies: "(1) the desertion of our own troops; 
(2) a sudden attack on the part of the enemy." Cf . VII. ss. 17. 
Mei Yao-chfen says: "On the march, the regiments should be 
in close touch; in an encampment, there should be continuity 
between the fortifications."] 

47. On contentious ground, I would hurry up my rear. 

[This is Ts'ao Kung's interpretation. Chang Yu adopts it, 
saying: "We must quickly bring up our rear, so that head and 
tail may both reach the goal." That is, they must not be 
allowed to straggle up a long way apart. Mei Yao-chfen 
offers another equally plausible explanation: "Supposing the 
enemy has not yet reached the coveted position, and we are 
behind him, we should advance with all speed in order to 
dispute its possession." Chf en Hao, on the other hand, 
assuming that the enemy has had time to select his own 
ground, quotes VI. ss. 1, where Sun Tzu warns us against 
coming exhausted to the attack. His own idea of the situation 
is rather vaguely expressed: "If there is a favorable position 
lying in front of you, detach a picked body of troops to 
occupy it, then if the enemy, relying on their numbers, come 
up to make a fight for it, you may fall quickly on their rear 
with your main body, and victory will be assured." It was 
thus, he adds, that Chao She beat the army of Chun. (See p. 
57.)] 

48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my 
defenses. On ground of intersecting highways, I 
would consolidate my alliances. 

49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a 
continuous stream of supplies. 

[The commentators take this as referring to forage and 
plunder, not, as one might expect, to an unbroken 
communication with a home base.] 

On difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along 
the road. 



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50. On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of 
retreat. 

[Meng Shih says: "To make it seem that I meant to 
defend the position, whereas my real intention is to burst 
suddenly through the enemy's lines." Mei Yao-chfen says: 
"in order to make my soldiers fight with desperation." Wang 
Hsi says, "fearing lest my men be tempted to run away." Tu 
Mu points out that this is the converse of VII. ss. 36, where it 
is the enemy who is surrounded. In 532 A.D., Kao Huan, 
afterwards Emperor and canonized as Shen-wu, was 
surrounded by a great army under Erh-chu Chao and others. 
His own force was comparatively small, consisting only of 
2000 horse and something under 30,000 foot. The lines of 
investment had not been drawn very closely together, gaps 
being left at certain points. But Kao Huan, instead of trying 
to escape, actually made a shift to block all the remaining 
outlets himself by driving into them a number of oxen and 
donkeys roped together. As soon as his officers and men 
saw that there was nothing for it but to conquer or die, their 
spirits rose to an extraordinary pitch of exaltation, and they 
charged with such desperate ferocity that the opposing 
ranks broke and crumbled under their onslaught.] 

On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my 
soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives. 

[Tu Yu says: "Burn your baggage and impedimenta, 
throw away your stores and provisions, choke up the wells, 
destroy your cooking-stoves, and make it plain to your men 
that they cannot survive, but must fight to the death." Mei 
Yao-chfen says: "The only chance of life lies in giving up all 
hope of it." This concludes what Sun Tzu has to say about 
"grounds" and the "variations" corresponding to them. 
Reviewing the passages which bear on this important 
subject, we cannot fail to be struck by the desultory and 
unmethodical fashion in which it is treated. Sun Tzu begins 
abruptly in VIII. ss. 2 to enumerate "variations" before 
touching on "grounds" at all, but only mentions five, namely 
nos. 7, 5, 8 and 9 of the subsequent list, and one that is not 
included in it. A few varieties of ground are dealt with in the 
earlier portion of chap. IX, and then chap. X sets forth six 
new grounds, with six variations of plan to match. None of 
these is mentioned again, though the first is hardly to be 



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distinguished from ground no. 4 in the next chapter. At last, 
in chap. XI, we come to the Nine Grounds par excellence, 
immediately followed by the variations. This takes us down 
to ss. 14. In SS. 43-45, fresh definitions are provided for 
nos. 5, 6, 2, 8 and 9 (in the order given), as well as for the 
tenth ground noticed in chap. VIII; and finally, the nine 
variations are enumerated once more from beginning to end, 
all, with the exception of 5, 6 and 7, being different from 
those previously given. Though it is impossible to account 
for the present state of Sun Tzu's text, a few suggestive 
facts maybe brought into prominence: (1) Chap. VIII, 
according to the title, should deal with nine variations, 
whereas only five appear. (2) It is an abnormally short 
chapter. (3) Chap. XI is entitled The Nine Grounds. Several 
of these are defined twice over, besides which there are two 
distinct lists of the corresponding variations. (4) The length 
of the chapter is disproportionate, being double that of any 
other except IX. I do not propose to draw any inferences 
from these facts, beyond the general conclusion that Sun 
Tzu's work cannot have come down to us in the shape in 
which it left his hands: chap. VIII is obviously defective and 
probably out of place, while XI seems to contain matter that 
has either been added by a later hand or ought to appear 
elsewhere.] 

51. For it is the soldier's disposition to offer an 

obstinate resistance when surrounded, to fight hard 
when he cannot help himself, and to obey promptly 
when he has fallen into danger. 

[Chang Yu alludes to the conduct of Pan Chfao's 
devoted followers in 73 A.D. The story runs thus in the HOU 
HAN SHU, ch. 47: "When Pan Chfao arrived at Shan-shan, 
Kuang, the King of the country, received him at first with 
great politeness and respect; but shortly afterwards his 
behavior underwent a sudden change, and he became 
remiss and negligent. Pan Chfao spoke about this to the 
officers of his suite: 'Have you noticed,' he said, 'that 
Kuang's polite intentions are on the wane? This must signify 
that envoys have come from the Northern barbarians, and 
that consequently he is in a state of indecision, not knowing 
with which side to throw in his lot. That surely is the reason. 
The truly wise man, we are told, can perceive things before 



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they have come to pass; how much more, then, those that 
are already manifest!' Thereupon he called one of the 
natives who had been assigned to his service, and set a trap 
for him, saying: 'Where are those envoys from the Hsiung-nu 
who arrived some day ago?' The man was so taken aback 
that between surprise and fear he presently blurted out the 
whole truth. Pan Chfao, keeping his informant carefully 
under lock and key, then summoned a general gathering of 
his officers, thirty-six in all, and began drinking with them. 
When the wine had mounted into their heads a little, he tried 
to rouse their spirit still further by addressing them thus: 
'Gentlemen, here we are in the heart of an isolated region, 
anxious to achieve riches and honor by some great exploit. 
Now it happens that an ambassador from the Hsiung-no 
arrived in this kingdom only a few days ago, and the result is 
that the respectful courtesy extended towards us by our 
royal host has disappeared. Should this envoy prevail upon 
him to seize our party and hand us over to the Hsiung-no, 
our bones will become food for the wolves of the desert. 
What are we to do?' With one accord, the officers replied: 
'Standing as we do in peril of our lives, we will follow our 
commander through life and death.' For the sequel of this 
adventure, see chap. XII. ss. 1, note.] 

52. We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring 
princes until we are acquainted with their designs. 
We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless 
we are familiar with the face of the country — its 
mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its 
marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn 
natural advantages to account unless we make use 
of local guides. 

[These three sentences are repeated from VII. SS. 12- 
14 — in order to emphasize their importance, the 
commentators seem to think. I prefer to regard them as 
interpolated here in order to form an antecedent to the 
following words. With regard to local guides, Sun Tzu might 
have added that there is always the risk of going wrong, 
either through their treachery or some misunderstanding 
such as Livy records (XXII. 13): Hannibal, we are told, 
ordered a guide to lead him into the neighborhood of 
Casinum, where there was an important pass to be 

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occupied; but his Carthaginian accent, unsuited to the 
pronunciation of Latin names, caused the guide to 
understand Casilinum instead of Casinum, and turning from 
his proper route, he took the army in that direction, the 
mistake not being discovered until they had almost arrived.] 

53. To be ignored of any one of the following four or five 
principles does not befit a warlike prince. 

54. When a warlike prince attacks a powerful state, his 
generalship shows itself in preventing the 
concentration of the enemy's forces. He overawes 
his opponents, and their allies are prevented from 
joining against him. 

[Mei Tao-chf en constructs one of the chains of reasoning 
that are so much affected by the Chinese: "In attacking a 
powerful state, if you can divide her forces, you will have a 
superiority in strength; if you have a superiority in strength, 
you will overawe the enemy; if you overawe the enemy, the 
neighboring states will be frightened; and if the neighboring 
states are frightened, the enemy's allies will be prevented 
from joining her." The following gives a stronger meaning: "If 
the great state has once been defeated (before she has had 
time to summon her allies), then the lesser states will hold 
aloof and refrain from massing their forces." Chfen Hao and 
Chang Yu take the sentence in quite another way. The 
former says: "Powerful though a prince may be, if he attacks 
a large state, he will be unable to raise enough troops, and 
must rely to some extent on external aid; if he dispenses 
with this, and with overweening confidence in his own 
strength, simply tries to intimidate the enemy, he will surely 
be defeated." Chang Yu puts his view thus: "If we recklessly 
attack a large state, our own people will be discontented and 
hang back. But if (as will then be the case) our display of 
military force is inferior by half to that of the enemy, the 
other chieftains will take fright and refuse to join us."] 

55. Hence he does not strive to ally himself with all and 
sundry, nor does he foster the power of other states. 
He carries out his own secret designs, keeping his 
antagonists in awe. 



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[The train of thought, as said by Li Chfuan, appears to 
be this: Secure against a combination of his enemies, "he 
can afford to reject entangling alliances and simply pursue 
his own secret designs, his prestige enable him to dispense 
with external friendships."] 

Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow 
their kingdoms. 

[This paragraph, though written many years before the 
Chun State became a serious menace, is not a bad 
summary of the policy by which the famous Six Chancellors 
gradually paved the way for her final triumph under Shih 
Huang Ti. Chang Yu, following up his previous note, thinks 
that Sun Tzu is condemning this attitude of cold-blooded 
selfishness and haughty isolation.] 

56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule, 

[Wu Tzu (ch. 3) less wisely says: "Let advance be richly 
rewarded and retreat be heavily punished."] 

issue orders 

[Literally, "hang" or post up."] 

without regard to previous arrangements; 

["In order to prevent treachery," says Wang Hsi. The 
general meaning is made clear by Ts'ao Kung's quotation 
from the SSU-MA FA: "Give instructions only on sighting the 
enemy; give rewards when you see deserving deeds." Ts'ao 
Kung's paraphrase: "The final instructions you give to your 
army should not correspond with those that have been 
previously posted up." Chang Yu simplifies this into "your 
arrangements should not be divulged beforehand." And Chia 
Lin says: "there should be no fixity in your rules and 
arrangements." Not only is there danger in letting your plans 
be known, but war often necessitates the entire reversal of 
them at the last moment.] 

and you will be able to handle a whole army as 
though you had to do with but a single man. 

[Cf. supra, ss. 34.] 



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57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let 
them know your design. 

[Literally, "do not tell them words;" i.e. do not give your 
reasons for any order. Lord Mansfield once told a junior 
colleague to "give no reasons" for his decisions, and the 
maxim is even more applicable to a general than to a judge.] 

When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; 
but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy. 

58. Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; 
plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off 
in safety. 

[These words of Sun Tzu were once quoted by Han Hsin 
in explanation of the tactics he employed in one of his most 
brilliant battles, already alluded to on p. 28. In 204 B.C., he 
was sent against the army of Chao, and halted ten miles 
from the mouth of the Ching-hsing pass, where the enemy 
had mustered in full force. Here, at midnight, he detached a 
body of 2000 light cavalry, every man of which was furnished 
with a red flag. Their instructions were to make their way 
through narrow defiles and keep a secret watch on the 
enemy. "When the men of Chao see me in full flight," Han 
Hsin said, "they will abandon their fortifications and give 
chase. This must be the sign for you to rush in, pluck down 
the Chao standards and set up the red banners of Han in 
their stead." Turning then to his other officers, he remarked: 
"Our adversary holds a strong position, and is not likely to 
come out and attack us until he sees the standard and 
drums of the commander-in-chief, for fear I should turn back 
and escape through the mountains." So saying, he first of all 
sent out a division consisting of 10,000 men, and ordered 
them to form in line of battle with their backs to the River Ti. 
Seeing this maneuver, the whole army of Chao broke into 
loud laughter. By this time it was broad daylight, and Han 
Hsin, displaying the generalissimo's flag, marched out of the 
pass with drums beating, and was immediately engaged by 
the enemy. A great battle followed, lasting for some time; 
until at length Han Hsin and his colleague Chang Ni, leaving 
drums and banner on the field, fled to the division on the 
river bank, where another fierce battle was raging. The 
enemy rushed out to pursue them and to secure the 



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trophies, thus denuding their ramparts of men; but the two 
generals succeeded in joining the other army, which was 
fighting with the utmost desperation. The time had now come 
for the 2000 horsemen to play their part. As soon as they 
saw the men of Chao following up their advantage, they 
galloped behind the deserted walls, tore up the enemy's 
flags and replaced them by those of Han. When the Chao 
army looked back from the pursuit, the sight of these red 
flags struck them with terror. Convinced that the Hans had 
got in and overpowered their king, they broke up in wild 
disorder, every effort of their leader to stay the panic being 
in vain. Then the Han army fell on them from both sides and 
completed the rout, killing a number and capturing the rest, 
amongst whom was King Ya himselfAfter the battle, some of 
Han Hsin's officers came to him and said: "In the ART OF 
WAR we are told to have a hill or tumulus on the right rear, 
and a river or marsh on the left front. [This appears to be a 
blend of Sun Tzu and T'ai Kung. See IX ss. 9, and note.] 
You, on the contrary, ordered us to draw up our troops with 
the river at our back. Under these conditions, how did you 
manage to gain the victory?" The general replied: "I fear you 
gentlemen have not studied the Art of War with sufficient 
care. Is it not written there: 'Plunge your army into desperate 
straits and it will come off in safety; place it in deadly peril 
and it will survive'? Had I taken the usual course, I should 
never have been able to bring my colleague round. What 
says the Military Classic — 'Swoop down on the market-place 
and drive the men off to fight.' [This passage does not occur 
in the present text of Sun Tzu.] If I had not placed my troops 
in a position where they were obliged to fight for their lives, 
but had allowed each man to follow his own discretion, there 
would have been a general debandade, and it would have 
been impossible to do anything with them." The officers 
admitted the force of his argument, and said: "These are 
higher tactics than we should have been capable of." [See 
CH^IEN HAN SHU, ch. 34, ff. 4, 5.] ] 

59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into 
harm's way that is capable of striking a blow for 
victory. 

[Danger has a bracing effect.] 



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60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully 
accommodating ourselves to the enemy's purpose. 

[Ts'ao Kung says: "Feign stupidity" — by an appearance 
of yielding and falling in with the enemy's wishes. Chang 
Yu's note makes the meaning clear: "If the enemy shows an 
inclination to advance, lure him on to do so; if he is anxious 
to retreat, delay on purpose that he may carry out his 
intention." The object is to make him remiss and 
contemptuous before we deliver our attack.] 

61. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank, 

[I understand the first four words to mean 
"accompanying the enemy in one direction." Ts'ao Kung 
says: "unite the soldiers and make for the enemy." But such 
a violent displacement of characters is quite indefensible.] 

we shall succeed in the long run 

[Literally, "after a thousand LI."] 
in killing the commander-in-chief. 

[Always a great point with the Chinese.] 

62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer 
cunning. 

63. On the day that you take up your command, block 
the frontier passes, destroy the official tallies, 

[These were tablets of bamboo or wood, one half of 
which was issued as a permit or passport by the official in 
charge of a gate. Cf. the "border-warden" of LUN YU III. 24, 
who may have had similar duties. When this half was 
returned to him, within a fixed period, he was authorized to 
open the gate and let the traveler through.] 

and stop the passage of all emissaries. 
[Either to or from the enemy's country.] 

64. Be stern in the council-chamber, 

[Show no weakness, and insist on your plans being 
ratified by the sovereign.] 

so that you may control the situation. 



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[Mei Yao-chf en understands the whole sentence to 
mean: Take the strictest precautions to ensure secrecy in 
your deliberations.] 

65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in. 

66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds 
dear, 

[Cf. supra, ss. 18.] 

and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground. 

[Chf en Hao's explanation: "If I manage to seize a 
favorable position, but the enemy does not appear on the 
scene, the advantage thus obtained cannot be turned to any 
practical account. He who intends therefore, to occupy a 
position of importance to the enemy, must begin by making 
an artful appointment, so to speak, with his antagonist, and 
cajole him into going there as well." Mei Yao-chfen explains 
that this "artful appointment" is to be made through the 
medium of the enemy's own spies, who will carry back just 
the amount of information that we choose to give them. 
Then, having cunningly disclosed our intentions, "we must 
manage, though starting after the enemy, to arrive before 
him (VII. ss. 4). We must start after him in order to ensure 
his marching thither; we must arrive before him in order to 
capture the place without trouble. Taken thus, the present 
passage lends some support to Mei Yao-chfen's 
interpretation of ss. 47.] 

67. Walk in the path defined by rule, 

[Chia Lin says: "Victory is the only thing that matters, 
and this cannot be achieved by adhering to conventional 
canons." It is unfortunate that this variant rests on very slight 
authority, for the sense yielded is certainly much more 
satisfactory. Napoleon, as we know, according to the 
veterans of the old school whom he defeated, won his 
battles by violating every accepted canon of warfare.] 

and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you 
can fight a decisive battle. 

[Tu Mu says: "Conform to the enemy's tactics until a 
favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in 
a battle that shall prove decisive."] 

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68. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until 
the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate 
the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late 
for the enemy to oppose you. 

[As the hare is noted for its extreme timidity, the 
comparison hardly appears felicitous. But of course Sun Tzu 
was thinking only of its speed. The words have been taken 
to mean: You must flee from the enemy as quickly as an 
escaping hare; but this is rightly rejected by Tu Mu.] 



[1] Giles' Biographical Dictionary, no. 399. 

[2] "The Science of War," p. 333. 

[3] "Stonewall Jackson," vol. I, p. 421. 



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XII The Attack by Fire 



[Rather more than half the chapter (SS. 1-13) is devoted 
to the subject of fire, after which the author branches off into 
other topics.] 

1. Sun Tzu said: There are five ways of attacking with 
fire. The first is to burn soldiers in their camp; 

[So Tu Mu. Li Chf uan says: "Set fire to the camp, and kill 
the soldiers" (when they try to escape from the flames). Pan 
Chfao, sent on a diplomatic mission to the King of Shan- 
shan [see XI. ss. 51, note], found himself placed in extreme 
peril by the unexpected arrival of an envoy from the Hsiung- 
nu [the mortal enemies of the Chinese]. In consultation with 
his officers, he exclaimed: "Never venture, never win! [1] 
The only course open to us now is to make an assault by fire 
on the barbarians under cover of night, when they will not be 
able to discern our numbers. Profiting by their panic, we 
shall exterminate them completely; this will cool the King's 
courage and cover us with glory, besides ensuring the 
success of our mission.' the officers all replied that it would 
be necessary to discuss the matter first with the Intendant. 
Pan Chfao then fell into a passion: 'It is today,' he cried, 'that 
our fortunes must be decided! The Intendant is only a 
humdrum civilian, who on hearing of our project will certainly 
be afraid, and everything will be brought to light. An 
inglorious death is no worthy fate for valiant warriors.' All 
then agreed to do as he wished. Accordingly, as soon as 
night came on, he and his little band quickly made their way 
to the barbarian camp. A strong gale was blowing at the 
time. Pan Chfao ordered ten of the party to take drums and 
hide behind the enemy's barracks, it being arranged that 
when they saw flames shoot up, they should begin 
drumming and yelling with all their might. The rest of his 
men, armed with bows and crossbows, he posted in 
ambuscade at the gate of the camp. He then set fire to the 
place from the windward side, whereupon a deafening noise 
of drums and shouting arose on the front and rear of the 
Hsiung-nu, who rushed out pell-mell in frantic disorder. Pan 
Chfao slew three of them with his own hand, while his 
companions cut off the heads of the envoy and thirty of his 
suite. The remainder, more than a hundred in all, perished in 



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the flames. On the following day, Pan Chfao, divining his 
thoughts, said with uplifted hand: 'Although you did not go 
with us last night, I should not think, Sir, of taking sole credit 
for our exploit.' This satisfied Kuo Hsun, and Pan Chfao, 
having sent for Kuang, King of Shan-shan, showed him the 
head of the barbarian envoy. The whole kingdom was seized 
with fear and trembling, which Pan Chfao took steps to allay 
by issuing a public proclamation. Then, taking the king's 
sons as hostage, he returned to make his report to Tou Ku." 
HOU HAN SHU, ch. 47, ff. 1,2.]] 

the second is to burn stores; 

[Tu Mu says: "Provisions, fuel and fodder." In order to 
subdue the rebellious population of Kiangnan, Kao Keng 
recommended Wen Ti of the Sui dynasty to make periodical 
raids and burn their stores of grain, a policy which in the 
long run proved entirely successful.] 

the third is to burn baggage trains; 

[An example given is the destruction of Yuan Shao's 
wagons and impedimenta by Ts'ao Ts'ao in 200 A.D.] 

the fourth is to burn arsenals and magazines; 

[Tu Mu says that the things contained in "arsenals" and 
"magazines" are the same. He specifies weapons and other 
implements, bullion and clothing. Cf. VII. ss. 11.] 

the fifth is to hurl dropping fire amongst the enemy. 

[Tu Yu says in the TUNG TIEN: "To drop fire into the 
enemy's camp. The method by which this may be done is to 
set the tips of arrows alight by dipping them into a brazier, 
and then shoot them from powerful crossbows into the 
enemy's lines."] 

In order to carry out an attack, we must have means 
available. 

[T'sao Kung thinks that "traitors in the enemy's camp" 
are referred to. But Chf en Hao is more likely to be right in 
saying: "We must have favorable circumstances in general, 
not merely traitors to help us." Chia Lin says: "We must avail 
ourselves of wind and dry weather."] 



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the material for raising fire should always be kept in 
readiness. 

[Tu Mu suggests as material for making fire: "dry 
vegetable matter, reeds, brushwood, straw, grease, oil, etc." 
Here we have the material cause. Chang Yu says: "vessels 
for hoarding fire, stuff for lighting fires."] 

3. There is a proper season for making attacks with 

fire, and special days for starting a conflagration. 

4. The proper season is when the weather is very dry; 

the special days are those when the moon is in the 
constellations of the Sieve, the Wall, the Wing or the 
Cross-bar; 

[These are, respectively, the 7th, 14th, 27th, and 28th of 
the Twenty-eight Stellar Mansions, corresponding roughly to 
Sagittarius, Pegasus, Crater and Corvus.] 

for these four are all days of rising wind. 

5. In attacking with fire, one should be prepared to 

meet five possible developments: 

6. (1) When fire breaks out inside to enemy's camp, 

respond at once with an attack from without. 

7. (2) If there is an outbreak of fire, but the enemy's 

soldiers remain quiet, bide your time and do not 
attack. 

[The prime object of attacking with fire is to throw the 
enemy into confusion. If this effect is not produced, it means 
that the enemy is ready to receive us. Hence the necessity 
for caution.] 

8. (3) When the force of the flames has reached its 

height, follow it up with an attack, if that is 
practicable; if not, stay where you are. 

[Ts'ao Kung says: "If you see a possible way, advance; 
but if you find the difficulties too great, retire."] 



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9. (4) If it is possible to make an assault with fire from 
without, do not wait for it to break out within, but 
deliver your attack at a favorable moment. 

[Tu Mu says that the previous paragraphs had reference 
to the fire breaking out (either accidentally, we may suppose, 
or by the agency of incendiaries) inside the enemy's camp. 
"But," he continues, "if the enemy is settled in a waste place 
littered with quantities of grass, or if he has pitched his camp 
in a position which can be burnt out, we must carry our fire 
against him at any seasonable opportunity, and not await on 
in hopes of an outbreak occurring within, for fear our 
opponents should themselves burn up the surrounding 
vegetation, and thus render our own attempts fruitless." The 
famous Li Ling once baffled the leader of the Hsiung-nu in 
this way. The latter, taking advantage of a favorable wind, 
tried to set fire to the Chinese general's camp, but found that 
every scrap of combustible vegetation in the neighborhood 
had already been burnt down. On the other hand, Po-ts x ai, a 
general of the Yellow Turban rebels, was badly defeated in 
184 A.D. through his neglect of this simple precaution. "At 
the head of a large army he was besieging Chf ang-she, 
which was held by Huang-fu Sung. The garrison was very 
small, and a general feeling of nervousness pervaded the 
ranks; so Huang-fu Sung called his officers together and 
said: "In war, there are various indirect methods of attack, 
and numbers do not count for everything. [The commentator 
here quotes Sun Tzu, V. SS. 5, 6 and 10.] Now the rebels 
have pitched their camp in the midst of thick grass which will 
easily burn when the wind blows. If we set fire to it at night, 
they will be thrown into a panic, and we can make a sortie 
and attack them on all sides at once, thus emulating the 
achievement of Tien Tan.' [See p. 90.] That same evening, 
a strong breeze sprang up; so Huang-fu Sung instructed his 
soldiers to bind reeds together into torches and mount guard 
on the city walls, after which he sent out a band of daring 
men, who stealthily made their way through the lines and 
started the fire with loud shouts and yells. Simultaneously, a 
glare of light shot up from the city walls, and Huang-fu Sung, 
sounding his drums, led a rapid charge, which threw the 
rebels into confusion and put them to headlong flight." [HOU 
HAN SHU, ch. 71.]] 



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10. (5) When you start a fire, be to windward of it. Do 
not attack from the leeward. 

[Chang Yu, following Tu Yu, says: "When you make a 
fire, the enemy will retreat away from it; if you oppose his 
retreat and attack him then, he will fight desperately, which 
will not conduce to your success." A rather more obvious 
explanation is given by Tu Mu: "If the wind is in the east, 
begin burning to the east of the enemy, and follow up the 
attack yourself from that side. If you start the fire on the east 
side, and then attack from the west, you will suffer in the 
same way as your enemy."] 

11. A wind that rises in the daytime lasts long, but a 
night breeze soon falls. 

[Cf. Lao Tzu's saying: "A violent wind does not last the 
space of a morning." (TAO TE CHING, chap. 23.) Mei Yao- 
chfen and Wang Hsi say: "A day breeze dies down at 
nightfall, and a night breeze at daybreak. This is what 
happens as a general rule." The phenomenon observed may 
be correct enough, but how this sense is to be obtained is 
not apparent.] 

12. In every army, the five developments connected 
with fire must be known, the movements of the stars 
calculated, and a watch kept for the proper days. 

[Tu Mu says: "We must make calculations as to the 
paths of the stars, and watch for the days on which wind will 
rise, before making our attack with fire." Chang Yu seems to 
interpret the text differently: "We must not only know how to 
assail our opponents with fire, but also be on our guard 
against similar attacks from them."] 

13. Hence those who use fire as an aid to the attack 
show intelligence; those who use water as an aid to 
the attack gain an accession of strength. 

14. By means of water, an enemy may be intercepted, 
but not robbed of all his belongings. 

[Ts'ao Kung's note is: "We can merely obstruct the 
enemy's road or divide his army, but not sweep away all his 
accumulated stores." Water can do useful service, but it 



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lacks the terrible destructive power of fire. This is the 
reason, Chang Yu concludes, why the former is dismissed in 
a couple of sentences, whereas the attack by fire is 
discussed in detail. Wu Tzu (ch. 4) speaks thus of the two 
elements: "If an army is encamped on low-lying marshy 
ground, from which the water cannot run off, and where the 
rainfall is heavy, it may be submerged by a flood. If an army 
is encamped in wild marsh lands thickly overgrown with 
weeds and brambles, and visited by frequent gales, it may 
be exterminated by fire."] 

15. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his 
battles and succeed in his attacks without 
cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is 
waste of time and general stagnation. 

[This is one of the most perplexing passages in Sun Tzu. 
Ts'ao Kung says: "Rewards for good service should not be 
deferred a single day." And Tu Mu: "If you do not take 
opportunity to advance and reward the deserving, your 
subordinates will not carry out your commands, and disaster 
will ensue." For several reasons, however, and in spite of the 
formidable array of scholars on the other side, I prefer the 
interpretation suggested by Mei Yao-chfen alone, whose 
words I will quote: "Those who want to make sure of 
succeeding in their battles and assaults must seize the 
favorable moments when they come and not shrink on 
occasion from heroic measures: that is to say, they must 
resort to such means of attack of fire, water and the like. 
What they must not do, and what will prove fatal, is to sit still 
and simply hold to the advantages they have got."] 

16. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his 
plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his 
resources. 

[Tu Mu quotes the following from the SAN LUEH, ch. 2: 
"The warlike prince controls his soldiers by his authority, kits 
them together by good faith, and by rewards makes them 
serviceable. If faith decays, there will be disruption; if 
rewards are deficient, commands will not be respected."] 



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17. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your 
troops unless there is something to be gained; fight 
not unless the position is critical. 

[Sun Tzu may at times appear to be over-cautious, but 
he never goes so far in that direction as the remarkable 
passage in the TAO TE CHING, ch. 69. "I dare not take the 
initiative, but prefer to act on the defensive; I dare not 
advance an inch, but prefer to retreat a foot."] 

18. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to 
gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a 
battle simply out of pique. 

19. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if 
not, stay where you are. 

[This is repeated from XI. ss. 17. Here I feel convinced 
that it is an interpolation, for it is evident that ss. 20 ought to 
follow immediately on ss. 18.] 

20. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may 
be succeeded by content. 

21. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can 
never come again into being; 

[The Wu State was destined to be a melancholy example 
of this saying.] 

nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. 

22. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good 
general full of caution. This is the way to keep a 
country at peace and an army intact. 

[1] "Unless you enter the tiger's lair, you cannot get hold 
of the tiger's cubs." 



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XI11 The Use of Spies 



1. Sun Tzu said: Raising a host of a hundred thousand 
men and marching them great distances entails 
heavy loss on the people and a drain on the 
resources of the State. The daily expenditure will 
amount to a thousand ounces of silver. 

[Cf. II. ss. ss. 1, 13, 14.] 

There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men 
will drop down exhausted on the highways. 

[Cf. TAO TE CHING, ch. 30: "Where troops have been 
quartered, brambles and thorns spring up. Chang Yu has the 
note: "We may be reminded of the saying: 'On serious 
ground, gather in plunder.' Why then should carriage and 
transportation cause exhaustion on the highways? The 
answer is, that not victuals alone, but all sorts of munitions 
of war have to be conveyed to the army. Besides, the 
injunction to 'forage on the enemy' only means that when an 
army is deeply engaged in hostile territory, scarcity of food 
must be provided against. Hence, without being solely 
dependent on the enemy for corn, we must forage in order 
that there may be an uninterrupted flow of supplies. Then, 
again, there are places like salt deserts where provisions 
being unobtainable, supplies from home cannot be 
dispensed with."] 

As many as seven hundred thousand families will be 
impeded in their labor. 

[Mei Yao-chf en says: "Men will be lacking at the plough- 
tail." The allusion is to the system of dividing land into nine 
parts, each consisting of about 15 acres, the plot in the 
center being cultivated on behalf of the State by the tenants 
of the other eight. It was here also, so Tu Mu tells us, that 
their cottages were built and a well sunk, to be used by all in 
common. [See II. ss. 12, note.] In time of war, one of the 
families had to serve in the army, while the other seven 
contributed to its support. Thus, by a levy of 100,000 men 
(reckoning one able-bodied soldier to each family) the 
husbandry of 700,000 families would be affected.] 



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2. Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving 

for the victory which is decided in a single day. This 
being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy's 
condition simply because one grudges the outlay of 
a hundred ounces of silver in honors and 
emoluments, 

["For spies" is of course the meaning, though it would 
spoil the effect of this curiously elaborate exordium if spies 
were actually mentioned at this point.] 

is the height of inhumanity. 

[Sun Tzu's agreement is certainly ingenious. He begins 
by adverting to the frightful misery and vast expenditure of 
blood and treasure which war always brings in its train. Now, 
unless you are kept informed of the enemy's condition, and 
are ready to strike at the right moment, a war may drag on 
for years. The only way to get this information is to employ 
spies, and it is impossible to obtain trustworthy spies unless 
they are properly paid for their services. But it is surely false 
economy to grudge a comparatively trifling amount for this 
purpose, when every day that the war lasts eats up an 
incalculably greater sum. This grievous burden falls on the 
shoulders of the poor, and hence Sun Tzu concludes that to 
neglect the use of spies is nothing less than a crime against 
humanity.] 

3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present 

help to his sovereign, no master of victory. 

[This idea, that the true object of war is peace, has its 
root in the national temperament of the Chinese. Even so far 
back as 597 B.C., these memorable words were uttered by 
Prince Chuang of the Chf u State: "The [Chinese] character 
for 'prowess' is made up of [the characters for] 'to stay' and 
'a spear' (cessation of hostilities). Military prowess is seen in 
the repression of cruelty, the calling in of weapons, the 
preservation of the appointment of Heaven, the firm 
establishment of merit, the bestowal of happiness on the 
people, putting harmony between the princes, the diffusion 
of wealth."] 



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4. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good 

general to strike and conquer, and achieve things 
beyond the reach of ordinary men, is 
FOREKNOWLEDGE. 

[That is, knowledge of the enemy's dispositions, and 
what he means to do.] 

5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from 

spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from 
experience, 

[Tu Mu's note is: "[knowledge of the enemy] cannot be 
gained by reasoning from other analogous cases."] 

nor by any deductive calculation. 

[Li Chfuan says: "Quantities like length, breadth, 
distance and magnitude, are susceptible of exact 
mathematical determination; human actions cannot be so 
calculated."] 

6. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be 

obtained from other men. 

[Mei Yao-chfen has rather an interesting note: 
"Knowledge of the spirit-world is to be obtained by 
divination; information in natural science may be sought by 
inductive reasoning; the laws of the universe can be verified 
by mathematical calculation: but the dispositions of an 
enemy are ascertainable through spies and spies alone."] 

7. Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five 

classes: (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) 
converted spies; (4) doomed spies; (5) surviving 
spies. 

8. When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none 

can discover the secret system. This is called 
"divine manipulation of the threads." It is the 
sovereign's most precious faculty. 

[Cromwell, one of the greatest and most practical of all 
cavalry leaders, had officers styled 'scout masters,' whose 
business it was to collect all possible information regarding 
the enemy, through scouts and spies, etc., and much of his 



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success in war was traceable to the previous knowledge of 
the enemy's moves thus gained." [1] ] 

9. Having LOCAL SPIES means employing the services 

of the inhabitants of a district. 

[Tu Mu says: "In the enemy's country, win people over 
by kind treatment, and use them as spies."] 

10. Having INWARD SPIES, making use of officials of 
the enemy. 

[Tu Mu enumerates the following classes as likely to do 
good service in this respect: "Worthy men who have been 
degraded from office, criminals who have undergone 
punishment; also, favorite concubines who are greedy for 
gold, men who are aggrieved at being in subordinate 
positions, or who have been passed over in the distribution 
of posts, others who are anxious that their side should be 
defeated in order that they may have a chance of displaying 
their ability and talents, fickle turncoats who always want to 
have a foot in each boat. Officials of these several kinds," he 
continues, "should be secretly approached and bound to 
one's interests by means of rich presents. In this way you 
will be able to find out the state of affairs in the enemy's 
country, ascertain the plans that are being formed against 
you, and moreover disturb the harmony and create a breach 
between the sovereign and his ministers." The necessity for 
extreme caution, however, in dealing with "inward spies," 
appears from an historical incident related by Ho Shih: "Lo 
Shang, Governor of l-Chou, sent his general Wei Po to 
attack the rebel Li Hsiung of Shu in his stronghold at P x i. 
After each side had experienced a number of victories and 
defeats, Li Hsiung had recourse to the services of a certain 
P'o-fai, a native of Wu-tu. He began to have him whipped 
until the blood came, and then sent him off to Lo Shang, 
whom he was to delude by offering to cooperate with him 
from inside the city, and to give a fire signal at the right 
moment for making a general assault. Lo Shang, confiding in 
these promises, march out all his best troops, and placed 
Wei Po and others at their head with orders to attack at P x o- 
fai's bidding. Meanwhile, Li Hsiung's general, Li Hsiang, 
had prepared an ambuscade on their line of march; and P x o- 
f ai, having reared long scaling-ladders against the city 



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walls, now lighted the beacon-fire. Wei Po's men raced up 
on seeing the signal and began climbing the ladders as fast 
as they could, while others were drawn up by ropes lowered 
from above. More than a hundred of Lo Shang's soldiers 
entered the city in this way, every one of whom was forthwith 
beheaded. Li Hsiung then charged with all his forces, both 
inside and outside the city, and routed the enemy 
completely." [This happened in 303 A.D. I do not know where 
Ho Shih got the story from. It is not given in the biography of 
Li Hsiung or that of his father Li Fe, CHIN SHU, ch. 120, 
121.] 

11. Having CONVERTED SPIES, getting hold of the 

enemy's spies and using them for our own purposes. 

[By means of heavy bribes and liberal promises 
detaching them from the enemy's service, and inducing them 
to carry back false information as well as to spy in turn on 
their own countrymen. On the other hand, Hsiao Shih-hsien 
says that we pretend not to have detected him, but contrive 
to let him carry away a false impression of what is going on. 
Several of the commentators accept this as an alternative 
definition; but that it is not what Sun Tzu meant is 
conclusively proved by his subsequent remarks about 
treating the converted spy generously (ss. 21 sqq.). Ho Shih 
notes three occasions on which converted spies were used 
with conspicuous success: (1) by T'ien Tan in his defense of 
Chi-mo (see supra, p. 90); (2) by Chao She on his march to 
O-yu (see p. 57); and by the wily Fan Chu in 260 B.C., when 
Lien P x o was conducting a defensive campaign against 
Chun. The King of Chao strongly disapproved of Lien P'o's 
cautious and dilatory methods, which had been unable to 
avert a series of minor disasters, and therefore lent a ready 
ear to the reports of his spies, who had secretly gone over to 
the enemy and were already in Fan Chu's pay. They said: 
"The only thing which causes Chun anxiety is lest Chao Kua 
should be made general. Lien P x o they consider an easy 
opponent, who is sure to be vanquished in the long run." 
Now this Chao Kua was a sun of the famous Chao She. 
From his boyhood, he had been wholly engrossed in the 
study of war and military matters, until at last he came to 
believe that there was no commander in the whole Empire 
who could stand against him. His father was much 
disquieted by this overweening conceit, and the flippancy 

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with which he spoke of such a serious thing as war, and 
solemnly declared that if ever Kua was appointed general, 
he would bring ruin on the armies of Chao. This was the man 
who, in spite of earnest protests from his own mother and 
the veteran statesman Lin Hsiang-ju, was now sent to 
succeed Lien P x o. Needless to say, he proved no match for 
the redoubtable Po Chfi and the great military power of 
Chun. He fell into a trap by which his army was divided into 
two and his communications cut; and after a desperate 
resistance lasting 46 days, during which the famished 
soldiers devoured one another, he was himself killed by an 
arrow, and his whole force, amounting, it is said, to 400,000 
men, ruthlessly put to the sword.] 

12. Having DOOMED SPIES, doing certain things openly 
for purposes of deception, and allowing our spies to 
know of them and report them to the enemy. 

[Tu Yu gives the best exposition of the meaning: "We 
ostentatiously do thing calculated to deceive our own spies, 
who must be led to believe that they have been unwittingly 
disclosed. Then, when these spies are captured in the 
enemy's lines, they will make an entirely false report, and 
the enemy will take measures accordingly, only to find that 
we do something quite different. The spies will thereupon be 
put to death." As an example of doomed spies, Ho Shih 
mentions the prisoners released by Pan Chf ao in his 
campaign against Yarkand. (See p. 132.) He also refers to 
T'ang Chien, who in 630 A.D. was sent by T x ai Tsung to lull 
the Turkish Kahn Chieh-li into fancied security, until Li Ching 
was able to deliver a crushing blow against him. Chang Yu 
says that the Turks revenged themselves by killing Tang 
Chien, but this is a mistake, for we read in both the old and 
the New Tang History (ch. 58, fol. 2 and ch. 89, fol. 8 
respectively) that he escaped and lived on until 656. Li l-chi 
played a somewhat similar part in 203 B.C., when sent by 
the King of Han to open peaceful negotiations with Chfi. He 
has certainly more claim to be described a "doomed spy", for 
the king of Chfi, being subsequently attacked without 
warning by Han Hsin, and infuriated by what he considered 
the treachery of Li l-chi, ordered the unfortunate envoy to be 
boiled alive.] 



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13. SURVIVING SPIES, finally, are those who bring back 
news from the enemy's camp. 

[This is the ordinary class of spies, properly so called, 
forming a regular part of the army. Tu Mu says: "Your 
surviving spy must be a man of keen intellect, though in 
outward appearance a fool; of shabby exterior, but with a will 
of iron. He must be active, robust, endowed with physical 
strength and courage; thoroughly accustomed to all sorts of 
dirty work, able to endure hunger and cold, and to put up 
with shame and ignominy." Ho Shih tells the following story 
of Ta'hsi Wu of the Sui dynasty: "When he was governor of 
Eastern Chun, Shen-wu of Chfi made a hostile movement 
upon Sha-yuan. The Emperor T'ai Tsu [? Kao Tsu] sent Ta- 
hsi Wu to spy upon the enemy. He was accompanied by two 
other men. All three were on horseback and wore the 
enemy's uniform. When it was dark, they dismounted a few 
hundred feet away from the enemy's camp and stealthily 
crept up to listen, until they succeeded in catching the 
passwords used in the army. Then they got on their horses 
again and boldly passed through the camp under the guise 
of night-watchmen; and more than once, happening to come 
across a soldier who was committing some breach of 
discipline, they actually stopped to give the culprit a sound 
cudgeling! Thus they managed to return with the fullest 
possible information about the enemy's dispositions, and 
received warm commendation from the Emperor, who in 
consequence of their report was able to inflict a severe 
defeat on his adversary."] 

14. Hence it is that which none in the whole army are 
more intimate relations to be maintained than with 
spies. 

[Tu Mu and Mei Yao-chf en point out that the spy is 
privileged to enter even the general's private sleeping-tent.] 

None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other 
business should greater secrecy be preserved. 

[Tu Mu gives a graphic touch: all communication with 
spies should be carried "mouth-to-ear." The following 
remarks on spies may be quoted from Turenne, who made 
perhaps larger use of them than any previous commander: 



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"Spies are attached to those who give them most, he who 
pays them ill is never served. They should never be known 
to anybody; nor should they know one another. When they 
propose anything very material, secure their persons, or 
have in your possession their wives and children as 
hostages for their fidelity. Never communicate anything to 
them but what is absolutely necessary that they should 
know. [2] ] 

15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain 
intuitive sagacity. 

[Mei Yao-chfen says: "In order to use them, one must 
know fact from falsehood, and be able to discriminate 
between honesty and double-dealing." Wang Hsi in a 
different interpretation thinks more along the lines of 
"intuitive perception" and "practical intelligence." Tu Mu 
strangely refers these attributes to the spies themselves: 
"Before using spies we must assure ourselves as to their 
integrity of character and the extent of their experience and 
skill." But he continues: "A brazen face and a crafty 
disposition are more dangerous than mountains or rivers; it 
takes a man of genius to penetrate such." So that we are left 
in some doubt as to his real opinion on the passage."] 

16. They cannot be properly managed without 
benevolence and straightforwardness. 

[Chang Yu says: "When you have attracted them by 
substantial offers, you must treat them with absolute 
sincerity; then they will work for you with all their might."] 

17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make 
certain of the truth of their reports. 

[Mei Yao-chfen says: "Be on your guard against the 
possibility of spies going over to the service of the enemy."] 

18. Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every 
kind of business. 

[Cf. VI. ss. 9.] 

19. If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before 
the time is ripe, he must be put to death together 
with the man to whom the secret was told. 



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[Word for word, the translation here is: "If spy matters 
are heard before [our plans] are carried out," etc. Sun Tzu's 
main point in this passage is: Whereas you kill the spy 
himself "as a punishment for letting out the secret," the 
object of killing the other man is only, as Chfen Hao puts it, 
"to stop his mouth" and prevent news leaking any further. If it 
had already been repeated to others, this object would not 
be gained. Either way, Sun Tzu lays himself open to the 
charge of inhumanity, though Tu Mu tries to defend him by 
saying that the man deserves to be put to death, for the spy 
would certainly not have told the secret unless the other had 
been at pains to worm it out of him."] 

20. Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a 
city, or to assassinate an individual, it is always 
necessary to begin by finding out the names of the 
attendants, the aides-de-camp, 

[Literally "visitors", is equivalent, as Tu Yu says, to 
"those whose duty it is to keep the general supplied with 
information," which naturally necessitates frequent 
interviews with him.] 

and door-keepers and sentries of the general in 
command. Our spies must be commissioned to 
ascertain these. 

[As the first step, no doubt towards finding out if any of 
these important functionaries can be won over by bribery.] 

21. The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us 
must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away 
and comfortably housed. Thus they will become 
converted spies and available for our service. 

22. It is through the information brought by the 
converted spy that we are able to acquire and 
employ local and inward spies. 

[Tu Yu says: "through conversion of the enemy's spies 
we learn the enemy's condition." And Chang Yu says: "We 
must tempt the converted spy into our service, because it is 
he that knows which of the local inhabitants are greedy of 
gain, and which of the officials are open to corruption."] 



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23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can 
cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the 
enemy. 

[Chang Yu says, "because the converted spy knows how 
the enemy can best be deceived."] 

24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving spy 
can be used on appointed occasions. 

25. The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is 
knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can 
only be derived, in the first instance, from the 
converted spy. 

[As explained in ss. 22-24. He not only brings 
information himself, but makes it possible to use the other 
kinds of spy to advantage.] 

Hence it is essential that the converted spy be 
treated with the utmost liberality. 

26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty 

[Sun Tzu means the Shang dynasty, founded in 1766 
B.C. Its name was changed to Yin by P'an Keng in 1 401 . 

was due to I Chih 

[Better known as I Yin, the famous general and 
statesman who took part in Chfeng Tang's campaign 
against Chieh Kuei.] 

who had served under the Hsia. Likewise, the rise of 
the Chou dynasty was due to Lu Ya 

[Lu Shang rose to high office under the tyrant Chou 
Hsin, whom he afterwards helped to overthrow. Popularly 
known as Tai Kung, a title bestowed on him by Wen Wang, 
he is said to have composed a treatise on war, erroneously 
identified with the LIU T AO.] 

who had served under the Yin. 

[There is less precision in the Chinese than I have 
thought it well to introduce into my translation, and the 
commentaries on the passage are by no means explicit. But, 
having regard to the context, we can hardly doubt that Sun 



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Tzu is holding up I Chin and Lu Ya as illustrious examples of 
the converted spy, or something closely analogous. His 
suggestion is, that the Hsia and Yin dynasties were upset 
owing to the intimate knowledge of their weaknesses and 
shortcoming which these former ministers were able to 
impart to the other side. Mei Yao-chfen appears to resent 
any such aspersion on these historic names: "I Yin and Lu 
Ya," he says, "were not rebels against the Government. Hsia 
could not employ the former, hence Yin employed him. Yin 
could not employ the latter, hence Hou employed him. Their 
great achievements were all for the good of the people." Ho 
Shih is also indignant: "How should two divinely inspired 
men such as I and Lu have acted as common spies? Sun 
Tzu's mention of them simply means that the proper use of 
the five classes of spies is a matter which requires men of 
the highest mental caliber like I and Lu, whose wisdom and 
capacity qualified them for the task. The above words only 
emphasize this point." Ho Shih believes then that the two 
heroes are mentioned on account of their supposed skill in 
the use of spies. But this is very weak.] 

27. Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise 
general who will use the highest intelligence of the 
army for purposes of spying and thereby they 
achieve great results. 

[Tu Mu closes with a note of warning: "Just as water, 
which carries a boat from bank to bank, may also be the 
means of sinking it, so reliance on spies, while production of 
great results, is oft-times the cause of utter destruction."] 

Spies are a most important element in water, 
because on them depends an army's ability to move. 

[Chia Lin says that an army without spies is like a man 
with ears or eyes.] 



[1] "Aids to Scouting," p. 2. 
[2] "Marshal Turenne," p. 311. 



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